Talk Film Summer Camp: Writing - Creed (2015)
Hey, campers! Glad you could join us for this inaugural Talk Film Summer Camp, where we here at Talk Film Society take a film per day, and dive into what makes each one a great example of one aspect of filmmaking. What we’re hoping to do here is spark a deeper appreciation for film and filmmaking in readers who may want to know more about each facet, so they can approach cinema with a deeper understanding of the invisible work casts and crews put in to tell a story.
When it comes to sequels, remakes, reboots, and prequels of old beloved franchises, it’s easy to be cynical. While most of them range from watchable to enjoyable, many of them seem like lazy cash grabs. But there’s a rare few that are actually transcendent experiences themselves. Ryan Coogler’s dynamic and unforgettable Creed is one such film. Thanks to his fluid direction, the flawless performances from the actors, and a moving, thoughtful script, Creed is a powerhouse movie. The film gets a lot of praise for its visceral moments and inventive camerawork, but the screenplay is the heart of the movie.
For me, the most important part of Creed is its authenticity. The characters speak with such passion, specificity, and vitality. There’s an urgency written into the screenplay that comes through in the execution. The way Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) makes his impassioned pleas, Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) strong mentorship, Bianca’s (Tessa Thompson) love and strength—these attributes make the film matter in a way that most reboots don’t. Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington pitched the idea of Rocky training Apollo Creed’s son to Stallone, and it shows that the film originated as their passion project. This isn’t a reboot made by an analysis of box office data. It comes from the heart.
The characters in Creed are fully realized and emotionally engaging. They wear their passions and insecurities on their sleeve, as they figure out how best to follow their dreams and make their lives matter while they still can. But the cost of following your dreams is a constant presence, a looming danger that they must face, as seen here in the film's screenplay…
Why’d you do it in the first place?
I had nothin. Less than nothin'.
And it gave you something, right?
And I’m not talking about the money.
Yeah it gave me something. But it
made me lose a lot of things too.
That’s the thing about boxing, it
takes more than it gives, you know?
Can say that about life. Look, it’s
something inside of me, telling me I
gotta do this. But I’m missing
something that can take me to the
next level. I think that’s you. You
can show me how to do it right.
Bianca is also dealing with this. In one of the most refreshing subplots in Creed, Bianca is a singer who is slowing losing her hearing. Bianca may be a “worried girlfriend” but she has her own life outside of the movie, her own dreams and struggles. Her story is structured as a parallel to Adonis’. She lives for her art but it’s harming her physically, just like Adonis. One could even imagine an alternate movie centered around her, with Adonis as her boxer boyfriend. One of the best scenes in the film is their doorway fight, after Adonis shows up to one of her gigs and causes trouble. Their romance is the secret weapon—it helps develop this world considerably and make the film thematically rich.
The structure of Creed is pretty basic. It’s a conventional sports movie with highs and lows, tough opponents, and training montages. The film is indebted to the Rocky series, especially the landmark first film. But what separates Creed from something bland like Southpaw is that the film is peppered with little character moments that bring the film to life. Also, it helps that the film was written and directed by black men. Their blackness informs the movie in ways that it wouldn’t have if it been written by white men. Creed is not necessarily a story about race, but race is all over the movie. The notion of privilege and success as a minority is another theme that adds to the film’s impact.
Creed is one of the best films of the 21st century. Its sensitive, heartfelt, and moving screenplay is a major reason why. Coogler and Covington’s script is stirring and compelling. There is something special about it, a looseness and free flow to the film that helps it feel more organic. Creed isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking script—it does play by the rules—but it is a perfect expression of this traditional structure, which is a lot harder than it seems.