10 December 2018

Taking The Rocky Path

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I saw a thing on Twitter the other day in which somebody asked, “What is the best bad movie that you love?” to which somebody else answered with Rocky 4, and I thought 'well, fuck the rest as that is the actual answer'. Rocky 4 is a piece of shit movie in which the franchise started snorting pure uncut 80's culture to the point that it lost its grip on reality. There are some poignant moments in it such as the death of Apollo Creed, which obviously plays into the new movie Creed 2. The rest of us however, can only really remember it for its montages. There's a montage of Stallone running up a mountain, carrying logs, and pulling sledges. At one point there's even a montage of all the other fucking montages from the previous movies. In all cases, he strains his face to resemble a kicked-in ballsack with a pair of mismatched googly-eyes stuck on it. Let's not forget the bit either in which the film pretty much stops to show us a ten minute James Brown concert for no reason whatsoever. Oh, and there's a robot butler in that one too because there was presumably too much cocaine knocking about when the script was being written. Rocky 4 is a crap movie but I'll be fucked if I don't admit that it's fun to watch.

Creed 2 would be more accurately titled if it was called Rocky 4 - 2: Revenge Of The Children as that's essentially what it's about. In Rocky 4, the Russian monster Ivan Drago punched Apollo Creed in the head until he died before being beaten by Rocky back home in his native motherland. Also, Rocky single-handedly ended the Cold War whilst he was there if I remember the end of that film correctly. However, it seems that things didn't pick up for poor Drago after that, with this film showing the social shunning and shit living conditions that he's spent the last thirty years enduring. He's also been raising a child to defeat the son of Apollo Creed and restore their family name and so I suppose it's a pretty fucking good job that the young Creed decided to get into boxing too. Otherwise, they'd have presumably tracked him down and smashed him in the back of the head with a fucking brick, I guess. They seemed pretty dedicated to their cause, meanwhile the surviving Creed is living the high life with his girlfriend from the last film and having become some sort of boxing champion. I don't know enough about sports to know specifically what the title was but he had a big gold belt and it didn't seem like it was for simply holding his pants up or in case he needed to hang himself at any given moment like the rest of us use ours for. 

Young Creed ends up fighting the younger Drago because he's an angry little bell-end who thinks he has something to prove. And to be fair... Apollo Creed isn't my father but if anybody touched even one of the tightly wound hairs on Carl Weathers' head then I would be more than willing to fight them to a bloody pulp too. Have you seen the moment in which Weathers and Arnie have a mid-air arm wrestler in Predator? After the reveal of 'Rosebud' at the end of Citizen Kane, that arm-wrestle is without a doubt the greatest moment in all of cinema. Anyway, I suppose the problem with Creed 2 is that from the very first shot you can pretty much predict each beat of the movie with the accuracy of a sniper that can hit a wasp in the dick from over a mile away. Creed and Drago have their first fight about an hour into the movie.. do you think Creed will win and there will be an hour of credits? What about their second fight at the end? Who do you think will win that one? Because obviously, you're right with both answers. However at the end of the day, who the fuck cares? I know that cinema should strive for originality but occasionally it is nice to simply have that thing you love professionally repackaged and given back to you in a more modern wrapper. It's always worked for the Bond franchise and fuck it... it's pretty much always worked for the Rocky series too. 

The reason that the Rocky movies are great isn't because of their shock twists and intricate plot but because the characters are so good. Rocky himself has become the old dog of the franchise - a wounded bear with fists of iron, a heart of gold, and a brain of jelly. In this rebooted Creed series I'm as interested in the life of the main character outside of the ring as much as I am when he's being hit in the face within it. I mean fucking hell.. if I can watch five movies in which Rocky gets married to that boring bitch from the turtle shop then I can certainly watch a couple of films that focus on Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson. However, the real genius of this movie is that despite being so caught up in the past, it still manages to feel completely modern whilst doing it. The final fight of Rocky 4 is completely ridiculous in terms of its big Russian set and the same is true here with the final fight seemingly taking place in the world of fucking Tron

By continuing to keep the focus on character, not only is everything more gripping here than it was in Rocky 4 but it actually improves on those characters too. Drago was originally a one-dimensional punching machine with only a couple of lines that were delivered about as articulately as a drunk Stephen Hawking after accidentally rolling over his own talk-box. But by seeing how broken Drago is here, he suddenly seems more real as the previous film is shown to have had actual consequences for him. I love the contrast too between how over the top Rocky 4 was and how fucking sad Creed 2 is. I guess it's a sign of the times that people in the '80s felt that you had to either go big or go home whereas these days we're all just too depressed to leave the house in the fucking first place. There's almost a Greek tragedy element to the whole thing too with the sins of the father passing down to the next generation, thanks to the younger Drago being equally as fucked by the effects of the past. Sure it's a Greek tragedy that exists in the looming shadow of the actor Carl Weathers, but it's a Greek tragedy none the less. I'd even argue that the villain of the film is better here than it was in the previous Creed because of the weight of the history that the two characters seem to share. Also, the villain in the previous film just appeared to be some fat scouser that looked like he'd accidentally stumbled into the franchise on his way to a post-fight kebab. 

Creed 2 works brilliantly thanks to the heft that it gets from the previous films whilst also building on their legacy, and dragging them out of the cartoon '80s and into our reality. As I said, I don't know much about boxing but I know that the fighters always try to piss each other off before a fight. I guess a fight isn't going to get much more personal than when one of those fighters can literally say, “My Dad killed your Dad”. Not that it makes any sense to me to try to annoy a person who is being paid to punch you in the face. If I was a boxer I'd spend all my time before a fight attempting to befriend and be kind to my opponent. I'd look after their elderly mother and I'd donate money to their favourite charity. That way they'd feel guilty about hurting me when we got in the ring which would hopefully give me the advantage. Also, I'd wear knuckledusters. Stallone has recently said that this film will be the final time that we ever seem him as the character of Rocky and I really hope that's not true. Michael B Jordan is the driving force behind this reboot but Stallone is clearly the beating heart in the background. Maybe he feels that the time is right to let this new character take the series in their own direction. Or maybe he's just planning to become un-hireable in the near future after those recent allegations that he forced a woman into a threesome with him and his bodyguard a couple of decades ago. All I can say is that I hope that this isn't the end for Rocky and I think that we're all glad that it's not the end for Creed. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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