So the studio has put out a a five-minute preview of Creed, something more telling than is typical in a mere trailer, perhaps in honor of Philly’s having actually named a day for Creed:
Director Ryan Coogler along with Stallone and his new co-stars Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson were on hand in Philly for the proclamation of Creed Day on November 25th, which is the day the film hits theaters. They were all given individually inscribed miniature Liberty Bells to mark the occasion by Mayor Michael A. Nutter, who received a framed rendering [of] a mural that was created in tribute to the city at the Front Street Gym in North Philly, a prominent location in Creed.
Living in northern Delaware means I have spent more than a few hours in Philly. And you cannot walk up those museum steps without some jackanapes doing the Rocky run, arms akimbo at the summit, jumping up and down as if he had just launched a fad. I have resisted the temptation, mostly because jumping is just not me. Instead, I take my time climbing my way up and then roll myself back down, colliding into tourists, knocking baby carriages and children out of the way, finally rolling rolling into traffic, causing all kinds of chaos.
Yes—it gets old after the third or fourth time.
That an African-American filmmaker has taken over the Rocky-Apollo story almost 39 years to the day the original Rocky debuted is pretty great. It’s a special tribute to Stallone, who created a black opponent whom the Italian Stallion not only respected but eventually befriended and finally had in his corner. (When Rocky stood in Apollo Creed’s corner, things didn’t go so well, but we won’t go there.) Instead of white vs. black, it was iron sharpened iron.
I hope the film is as good as the trailer, and I have to say, Stallone has definitely matured in this role, and by that I don’t mean that he’s just gotten visibly older. No doubt the script and Coogler’s direction have something to do with it, but Stallone’s affect, his cadences, gestures, subtle shifts in emphasis betray an actor who has come to inhabit a character body, mind, and spirit, a war-weary soldier who wears his scars like so many medals and is finally looking to go home. (Rocky also seems to have lost that smart-alecky spark—you know, those barely audible asides that reflect a sense of humor about himself and his environment.)
By the way, did you happen to read about architect Frank Gehry’s plans to remodel the Philly Art Museum such that those iconic steps would be no more (or at least radically, unrecognizably reshaped)?
One more thing before I go: Did I ever show you some of the original Rocky VI script pages? Yes? No? ANSWER ME!
Stallone (or an assistant) would fax these to me so I could lay out the most up-to-date content in Sly magazine. As you can see, he would cut, tweak, and run lines together until they had the rhythm he was seeking to achieve. He would also doodle in the margins—the images ever before him, no doubt. (A whole sub-story involving Paulie and his girlfriend was excised from the original script. No sign of it in the final film, no doubt owing to Stallone’s not wanting to detract from the main event.)
UPDATE (11/18): An early review from The Hollywood Reporter. Not bad, seems to be the takeaway, with Sly getting some love (as I thought he might). The opening graf:
Sylvester Stallone doesn’t get back in the ring in Creed, but he still comes away as a big winner in this far-fetched but likeable offshoot of the geriatric Rocky series, as he may be more appealing playing the aging Rocky Balboa than he’s been since the beginning of his forty-year career. Essentially taking on the role of Burgess Meredith’s old trainer Mickey character from the series’ early days, the veteran actor delightfully registers as a paisano from the old neighborhood, a man of the streets who’s lived his life, fought his battles and has no more scores to settle. From the points of view of director-co-writer Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, this marks some major mainstreaming after their bracing 2013 breakthrough with Fruitvale Station; dramatically, it’s the same old Rocky formula applied now to the hitherto unknown son of the late Apollo Creed. It worked before and, commercially, looks to work again.
UPDATE (11/25): Read my review here.