“Creed”: An under the radar Oscar contender?

Sylvester Stallone

Ladies and gentlemen, I know it sounds silly, but a sequel/spinoff from Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky films might be in awards contention this year. Yes, the upcoming movie Creed is another installment in the franchise centered around fighter Rocky Balboa, but this one takes a U-turn. Instead of being about Stallone’s pugilist, it’s about former rival turned friend Apollo Creed’s son. Rocky is more the trainer than the protagonist, essentially re-launching this series with a grittier and younger bent to it. A Trailer hit last week and really impressed me (which you’ll see below), leading me to wonder if the Academy might once again be interested in this franchise?

For those who don’t know, the first Rocky with a big time Oscar contender, nominated for ten Academy Awards and winning three (Best Picture, Best Director for John G. Avildsen, and Best Film Editing). Stallone himself was cited two times, for Best Actor as well as Best Original Screenplay. The franchise became a bit sillier each time out, as Stallone stepped behind the camera (except for Rocky V, which had Avildsen direct again) and made his hero a superhero, essentially negating the interest voters had in it. The most recent sequel, entitled Rocky Balboa, brought a measure of respect back to the series, so now Creed hopes to capitalize on that.

This film centers around Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, best known for Fruitvale Station), the son of former champion Apollo Creed. Fans of the franchise know that Apollo has passed on, so it’s fellow former champ Rocky Balboa who steps in as a trainer to help Adonis follow in his father’s footsteps. Essentially, this looks to be more of the first Rocky than any other in the franchise so far, while also functioning as basically a reboot of sorts. Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station fame as well) co-writes with Aaron Covington and directs, while aside from Jordan and Stallone, the cast includes Graham McTavish, Phylicia Rashad, and Tessa Thompson. Taking the series back to its roots might be just what the doctor ordered.

The main reason to be excited for this one is seeing Coogler and Jordan work together again. They both broke through in a big way with Fruitvale Station, a film that was majorly snubbed by the Academy. This time around, they’re getting to tell a similarly gritty (if fictional this time out) story, just couched around an established franchise. Especially if voters catch on to that and don’t look at the prior sequels in any cockeyed fashion, there’s a chance this hits with the Academy. At the very least, it could shape up to be a contender for a nomination or two.

Awards wise, it’s probably a long shot to expect something like Best Picture or even Best Director (for Coogler), but I have a hunch that this could be a player in a few places. Mainly, Best Actor (for Jordan), Best Supporting Actor (for Stallone…yes, really), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Coogler and Covington). Particularly in the case of Stallone, Oscar does love to reward those whom they formerly bestowed nominations upon. There’s a ton of boxing contenders this year (including Bleed for This and Southpaw) offering up similar competition, but if Coogler and Jordan can make this stand out from the pack, it has a puncher’s chance, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Basically, Creed is an opportunity to see an independent filmmaker get a chance to work on a bigger scale while telling a story he feels strongly about. If it’s a success, he’ll get twice the boost, as he’ll be furthering his aesthetic while also showing a knack for studio work. I’ll be watching closely on Thanksgiving when this one comes out to see if Coogler and Jordan can elevate the series, but I’m a sucker for Stallone’s franchise anyway. Creed has always had my curiosity and interest, but to steal a phrase from an Academy Award winning movie…they now have my attention as well.

Take a look at the Trailer for the film:

Stay tuned for more on Creed over the next few months!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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