‘Creed’ delivers: Michael B. Jordan, Stallone, make great team

Creed

Rocky Balboa is back — as a supporting character in a boxing film. While that may sound strange to long-time Italian Stallion fans, they should rest easy: Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a welcome addition to the Rocky universe.

Creed Balboa

For movie fans who have been living under a rock, Michael B. Jordan stars as the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson. The young man never met his father, who died in the ring during Rocky IV at the hands of Ivan Drago. Johnson’s mother also died when he was a boy, but Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad) took him in as her own.

It isn’t surprising to see what kind of themes are explored as Johnson attempts to define himself as a man while working his way out of his father’s shadow (e.g., abandonment, coping with death, letting go of the past, the importance of family). What is surprising is just how well Coogler pulls it all off — not for any lack of talent on his part, but because he is trying to succeed while tinkering with the “Rocky” brand. 

Rocky Apollo

Perhaps the easiest way to explain the movie’s worth to the franchise is to rank it in terms of the other films.

A convincing case can be made that Creed is the second-best movie featuring Balboa, if Oscar-contention is used as part of the litmus test. Coogler has given fans a drama. He has given them a tale of two men who slowly realize that if we become a prisoner to the past then we risk losing any number of potentially-beautiful futures.

Rocky Creed

Creed is not a movie for people who want to see larger than life characters like “Clubber Lang” or popcorn-movie gold like Rocky IV. It’s an tale that respects the source material, particularly 1976’s Rocky, but at the same time is very much its own film.

And for those who want to know how Johnson’s love interest, Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson), matches up with Adrian (Talia Shire), the answer is the same: Rest easy. Bianca is a welcome addition the the “Rocky” universe.

In short, everything in Creed feels natural. Nothing seems awkward or forced, which is good because the accomplishment has paved the way for a sequel if the creative team wants it.

The only way Coogler could have done a better job is if he invented a time machine and stopped Rocky V from ever happening, or Michael B. Jordan from signing on for Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four.

Michael B. Jordan promotes Fantastic Four by pulling race card on long-time fans

FF movieMichael B. Jordan is understandably frustrated. The new Fantastic Four movie looks like it will be a fantastic flop — not necessarily due to his efforts — but because it’s likely to be a melancholy and boring iteration of what should be a fun film. It looks like Fox hired the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe to be the cinematographer, and fans know it. In order to salvage some form of respect, Mr. Jordan has pulled out the handy-dandy race card.

The Hollywood actor writes in Entertainment Weekly:

Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today. …

Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.

To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.

Notice what Mr. Jordan does: he essentially lumps all critics into one group. Racists and trolls occupy the same tent as those with legitimate gripes (i.e., fans who want the on-screen Human Torch to match the one who they’ve read about in the comics for decades, and fans who are tired of politically correct pap). Mr. Jordan then tries to turn himself into a cultural martyr sent from Hollywood to save us all.

What group do guys like me fall under, Mr. Jordan? I belong to an interracial family and I generally like the big screen versions of the comic books I read as a kid to be faithful to the source material. I also find it weird to editorially mandate things like gay Iceman and She-Thor when creating new and interesting characters is an option.

Michael B. Jordan would not be writing op-eds like this for entertainment magazines if he thought Fantastic Four was going to be a huge success. One reason why no one cared that Samuel L. Jackson was the big-screen version of Nick Fury in 2008 was a.) because when he was cast he personified “cool,” and b.) Marvel Studios hit a home run with Iron Man.

Michael B. Jordan is not an American icon of cool, and Fox does not look like it will hit a home run with Fantastic Four this August.

As I have said before: it would annoy me if Blade or Rhodey were suddenly turned into white guys, but that’s not good enough to Hollywood actors or politically correct comic book creators. I and many others have to be on board with everything they come up with or be lumped into a category with racists and “trolls.”

The only way to stop this kind of tactic is to push back — hard — every time. If you do not define yourself, then guys like Michael B. Jordan will do it for you. When they pull the race card, you will be labeled a racist or a cultural dinosaur who needs to “go outside” more often.

In short, Fox’s Fantastic Four looks so flawed that the race of Johnny Storm is at the bottom of the list in terms of things to gripe about. The studio needs all the fans it can get at this point, because the buzz on the film seems to be, “Please let this bomb so the rights can go back to Marvel!” Opinion pieces that rely heavily on the race card are not helping Fox in its promotional efforts. If anything, the studio just looks desperate.