THE ACCEPTED UNUSUAL
A Review By Ben Hunter
A Review By Ben Hunter
4 Out Of 5 Stars
GET TO THE POINT BEN!
Even though on the surface it may not seem like it shouldn’t, I couldn’t believe how much this film touched my emotions!
“See this guy here”, pointing to the reflection of his trainee in the mirror, “that’s the toughest opponent you’re ever going to have to face. I believe that’s true in the ring and I believe that’s true in life.”
Whenever you throw a punch he’s throwing one right back at you. When you make a move to better yourself in life, he’s doing exactly the same at exactly the same time. People are just in the way of you going at it with yourself, to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed in whatever you choose to do with you and your surroundings. It’s not about the other person or people that can potentially cause harm, it’s important to deal with them respectfully, but what’s more important is that you have your plan on how to take on whatever the situation is, already worked out in your mind. No matter what anyone can do to you, you’ve already made peace with yourself that you will not allow your spirit to be broken. You’ve battled out the opponent of your mind already, that fight happened long ago, and you are victorious! Even if the situation doesn’t pan out the way you would have hoped, you’ve already proven to yourself that you have what it takes. So, next time, anytime, or no time at all, you’re already victorious!
|Adonis "Donnie" Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) as the troubled offspring of former rival and friend of Rocky Balboa, Apollo Creed.|
THIS is the message of Rocky! It’s the magical endeavor of perseverance and strength that tear jerks our hearts in the direction of confidence to realize we can do whatever we put our minds to! This is why I love Rocky with all my heart and have made him apart of my life for my entire life!
Writer/Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) revamps the beloved franchise and makes it his own with the new spin-off Creed. The story of the offspring, Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), of former opponent and friend of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) Apollo Creed. Who had an affair with another women who died when Donnie was too young to know either of his parents, and is the product of hate with Donnie who spent the earlier part of his youngster era in juvenile delinquency, hence Donnie going by his mother’s name of Johnson and not his father’s. But Creed’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) seeks out little incarcerated Donnie and raises him as her own.
|A fearful mother (Phylicia Rashad) doesn't want to go through with her son what she went through with her husband.|
With boxing in his blood as all he ever wants to do, studying his father as the aspect that he loves about him and the “abandonment” as the part he hates, Donnie eventually teams with Creed’s close friend Balboa who, with some convincing, takes Donnie under his wing as his protégé and teaches Donnie about fighting the man in the mirror to defeat the man in the ring.
The emotionality was surprisingly amazing with this film! Based on the pieces put together and the intentional, unorthodox personality that the film entails, it didn’t feel like classic Rocky. It should do its own thing, I get that, but it didn’t feel like the accepted unusual I was expecting to feel. And yet, by the climatic fight scene, my emotions confirmed that it was indeed the unusual I was expecting! I can’t remember the last time I cried this much. A distraught mother who doesn’t want to see her son go through what her husband did and having to go through it all over again (I kept thinking of my own mother), a trainer not wanting to see his protégé see the same thing as his friend did but still wants him to conquer his own demons as his friend wanted, I was there, feeling these feelings along with these characters!
|Donnie & love interest Bianca (Tessa Thompson) in Creed.|
Though not completely there, still the story sneakily indeed took my interest and invested it in Donnie, Rocky, Bianca (Tessa Thompson) who was a well infiltrated B story of a character with her own life and not just “the girl there to serve the man and make him better” as most side story girl characters are. I cared about these people and felt like magic was unveiling as the aura of this world was engulfed around me.
Coogler brilliantly uses his indie filmmaking roots to utilize some “indie” looking schematics with one take shots even amongst some of the choreographed boxing fights. A tactic used in all filmmaking but with the set design of Northern Philadelphia, despite being a commercial film and Creed being no different, Rocky was revised in a new and innovative perspective of the independent, small budgeted feeling of the arthouse film (and I’m happy to say that within black culture at that!). A task I was skeptical amongst other things at first but more than happy to have experienced once I let it breathe. Especially when this small feeling is exasperated in the final climatic fight and the big commercial aspect restored.
Even with the emotion doing the majority of the leg work, basics are basics. As I fervently state in my controversial review for 2013’s all hailed Gravity, put your underwear on before your pants. Though I was emotionally on board, the biggest and most important part of the story, the debate, was overlooked just a little as it is in a lot of commercial films. Why does Rocky want to help Donnie? Why does he eventually give in to his requests? This was answered, but no where near the level I wanted it to be.
Which could’ve easily made the famous “stairs” sequence that all Rocky films need, simply breathtaking as it would’ve given it that much more purpose. You want to talk tears, this is the moment in all Rocky films where they disregard who notices you and make a run for your chin and neck. This is the moment where Rocky, or in this case, Donnie, realizes that he has what it takes. This is the moment where he realizes that he’s already won. This is the moment where we the audience realize the movie can end right here and the amazing end fight sequence we’re about to experience only makes this movie even more amazing when we thought it couldn’t get any better.
As I said, I’m on the side of this story. The emotion does a great job of making up for a few story points I would’ve liked to have seen fleshed out a little bit more. Such as establishing the demons haunting Donnie within which Coogler took ahold of nicely, but not perfectly. Nevertheless, the emotion did a great job of carrying this story in a way that I never expected which is more ammo with “story is not everything” in the commercial v. arthouse fight. As a writer, I can’t deem it the best in the race for the most prestigious recognition a movie can receive for this reason, I just can’t. But with the punches it’s thrown in such a fight for quality, it’s amazing just how much it’s affected my heart and earned its place high up on my list of favorites this year!
Definitely a victorious champion!
Drama, 133 Minutes, PG-13
Story By: Ryan Coogler
Screenplay By: Ryan Coogler & Aaron Covington
Based On Characters Created By: Sylvester Stallone
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, & Phylicia Rashad