Welcome back to Cypher Sessions and a new chapter in our ever-expanding coverage of topics that intrigue and encompass our curiosity and passion. This is our first crack at reviewing a film here at Cypher Sessions, and we have decided to create a new branch of interest to the Cypher family by creating Cypher Flicks, which will mostly cover films that in some capacity tie into Hip Hop, but more importantly tie into intriguing storytelling. In our inaugural post for Cypher Flicks, the movie CREED has been able to do just that. We will do our best to not give away too much of the film, but Fair Warning: there are some spoiler-esque points discussed below. Let’s delve into what grabbed our attention so much with this movie.
As stated above, we will try not to give too much away in this film, but one thing that grabbed us from the beginning of the film is how director Ryan Coogler paints a picture of hardship for a young Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). Creed, who goes by Johnson because he chooses not to associate with his father who he knows nothing about, is shown to be scrapping with other boys in juvenile detention. Now for Rocky films it is not out of the ordinary to see the main character having to face adversity, but…this helps to establish from the beginning for our new protagonist throughout that despite the expectations and assumptions made about him throughout, there is no silver spoon upbringing for young Adonis. His life does turn around however when Apollo’s wife, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), comes to take him out of prison and raise him. This is his first turning point, and one that will temporarily quell his desire to fight.
Another important thing that Coogler does throughout this film are subtle nods to the original Rocky series. Instances of this include the training that Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) received, including training in Mickey’s gym and having to catch chickens to increase foot speed and mobility. One that we didn’t initially recognize until seeing the film a second time was the conversation that Adonis and love-interest Bianca (Tessa Thompson) have about taking a title fight with “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, the current world light heavyweight champion. The conversation is basically a mirror image in content to the one Rocky and Adrian have about not allowing fear to prevent oneself from fighting, and that the more important reason to take the fight is not necessarily the victory of the match, but victory over fear controlling one’s actions.
This for us was a seamless nod to the previous films while also being something that isn’t overtly obvious in terms of making the said nod. That is what will make the viewer appreciate this movie, how it tells a new story for a new character, while at the same time acknowledging and utilizing the predecessors of this film in an appropriate way. What’s also very interesting to see is that Rocky is not the main focus of the film but yet his secondary story line intertwines with Creed’s as the film goes on. Balboa gets diagnosed with an illness that requires very difficult therapy, and this causes Creed to slip up with regards to how his character up until this point had been progressing. The diagnosis and the slip up strengthen the bond between mentor and student, and gets the two back on track for their upcoming light heavyweight title bout. The empathy and the gut-wrenching moments throughout exude a response from the viewer that hasn’t been felt in a long time. The last bit that really adds to the film is something that is not often discussed enough when reviewing a film: the soundtrack.
There are a number of tracks that set the scenery of each portion of the film, but the songs that do it the best are nearly all hip hop tracks. From Meek Mill to The Roots to Nas the soundtrack is instrumental in how it defines each part of the story. From the Meek Mill tracks used during training montage scenes, to The Roots being utilized during Adonis’ move to Philadelphia, each song expresses really how things are going story-wise. From the smile-inducing scene where Balboa turns on Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ Wake Up Everybody to get Creed up for their first day of training, to the walkout usage of Tupac’s Hail Mary for Creed’s fight with Conlan. There are more tracks that can be referenced to signify other parts of the movie, but the point is, soundtracks are vital for a film’s success. When a film is not a period piece that already has the audience expecting the soundtrack to denote what is happening (think Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars, for example), it is harder for a soundtrack to do the aforementioned task; however, in CREED, it does just that.
That’s going to do it for our inaugural film review. Hopefully you enjoyed it, and for those of you out there that haven’t seen the film already, we tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum; go see it so you can better understand what we tried hinting at without actually mentioning. Thanks for reading, and until next time…..Peace!