I saw Creed on Friday night. I'm certainly no boxing fan and although I liked the first Rocky movie, I haven't seen most of the sequels. Still, the story line and particularly the relationship between the two leads seemed interesting, so off I went.
What did I think of Creed? Basically, meh. However, it did make me think about the original Rocky movie and why it was so good.
First, a quibble to get out of the way: maybe it's because I'm in the midst of a rather messy first draft, but I had the niggling feeling that a subplot got lost along the way, that of the other trainer with the much-tattooed son. It seemed to be building to some sort of importance, then...nadda.
Now to the main event: what Rocky the First Movie had that Creed did not.
In a nutshell, characters I cared about.
It's hard to feel much sympathy for Creed when he throws away a job many people would dearly love to have, and you see the house he lives in with Apollo Creed's widow. Yes, he has Issues, but compared to Rocky's "lifestyle" in the first movie, and the job he has, well...there is no comparison.
And then there's Adrian, a woman who is so mousy and shy, she's nearly mute. Here's the thing about the first Rocky movie: it isn't just about the rise of Rocky from the trash heap to glory in the ring. It's about Adrian's transformation from mouse to lion when she finally stands up to Paulie and goes to live with Rocky.
Maybe it's a (sad) sign of the (Hollywood) times, but Creed's girlfriend Bianca is as gorgeous and talented as Adrian was not. Yes, she has a "problem," one that given her career, could be devastating, yet she simply seems to shrug it off. Not something worth caring about for her, not worth me caring about, either.
This time, Rocky is the has-been who becomes a trainer, but for all his suffering, his portrayal of pain doesn't hold a candle to Burgess Meredith as Mickey pleading with Rocky to let him be his trainer. It's heart-wrenching to watch this old, broken-down ex-fighter talk about his glory days and beg. It's no surprise, after what's happened in the move thus far, that Rocky refuses. But then he goes after Mickey and gives him a second chance, too.
Are we engaged with the characters in Rocky? Oh, you betcha. Creed? Not nearly as much -- and that makes all the difference.