There’s something so ineffably dramatic about boxing, that lends itself remarkably to the silver screen. Spawning the Rocky franchise, it’s a sport which illuminates the notion of the underdog. Sporting movies, by their very nature, thrive in such a capacity, given they’re so often based around the competition format (even Dodgeball managed it) but in boxing it’s different; because theatrically speaking, there is nothing more exhilarating.
Perhaps it’s because one punch can do it. In team sports, like football (or soccer, for the Americans out there) you can’t be 10-0 down, and then score 11 goals in the last minute. But in Boxing, you can be beaten to a pulp, knocked down, your eyes swollen over, blood seeping out from newly formed crevices, and yet all it takes is one killer blow, and you’ve come out victorious. It takes the idea of an underdog and allows it to prosper until the last second, you’re never out of it until it’s over.
Rocky is emblematic of everything we adore about the boxing movie, well, the first picture at least. It’s a world steeped in cinematic history and tradition too, so much so, that Ryan Coogler’s Creed becomes immersed into this fictitious environment, and survives off the legacy this world has built. Needless to say, Coogler has done a remarkable job ensuring his film remains a worthy, standalone endeavour, and an intimate character story of the protagonist, Apollo Creed’s son Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), but it’s so affectionate towards the franchise that inspired it.
It’s not just Rocky though, there have been several other productions that use the sport as a platform to present such exciting, compelling cinema. Raging Bull is an obvious example, where Martin Scorsese deviated away, in parts, from the brutality and revelled predominantly in the elegance, with several slow-motion sequences which show off the beauty that exists.
The politics that take place outside of the ring have also been pivotal themes in films surrounding boxing, from The Fighter, Million Dollar Baby, Cinderella Man and of course, The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington. It just goes to show that as a theme there are so many layers, so many paths to take, and while the action may take place in the ring, between the two fighters – it’s a territory that inspires and bewitches, so that just having it as an overriding theme is absorbing enough.
Creed is the epitome of all of that and more, it’s an intense study of this one man, we see his romantic woes, his family strains, as he comes of age in front of our very eyes – but it’s also exciting, engaging and enlightening – as Coogler shoots the fights in a way that ensures our concentration never waivers. If you like boxing, you’ll love this movie, and if you like movies, you’ll love this movie.