While in Creed Adonis is struggling with finding his own identity while also honoring his father's legacy, in Creed II he is facing his fears about suffering the same fate as his father and history repeating itself. He is filled with the pain of abandonment and loss, but Adonis also has a newborn and doesn't want his daughter to go through the same thing he did growing up without his father. Meanwhile Rocky is living with consequence of having an estranged relationship with his son. A huge portion of the film is him trying to build the courage up to reach out to him. On top of that Rocky still feels responsible for the death of Apollo Creed, something he has to live with. The pains that Adonis, who has become a surrogate son to him, goes through is the legacy of his past failure.
The opposition faces this theme too. After Ivan's defeat at the hands of Rocky, the elder Drago is ostracized from the Soviet elite, he loses his wife, and he loses the respect of his country. (You can argue his loss single-handedly dismantled the Soviet Union.) Decades later Viktor has to correct the failures of his father, and win back the respect of his home country and the oligarchy that his dad desperately wants to impress. But Viktor clearly only wants to be enough for his father. There are other themes explored in this movie but the fatherhood theme was the most fleshed out and the best executed one.
Creed II is amazing for a lot of reasons, one of which are these moments in the film where we take a break from the action and dive deep into this themes. I think that's why Creed and Creed II work, because as good as the fighting scenes are, the character-driven portions of the film carry their weight as well. In order for these films to work as well as they do, they need characters we care about and they need these characters to go through some shit. But at the end of the day Creed II is still a boxing boxing movie and the boxing scenes need to be good. And let me tell you, the boxing scenes fucking slap. Director Steven Caple Jr. is no Ryan Coogler, but he knew what he was doing putting together these boxing scenes.
What I'll remember the most about Creed II besides the acting, the themes, and punches, is the way I felt sitting in that theater and the way the crowd reacted. During the boxing matches people were cheering and hollering from their seats, as if they were at an actual fight. I got in on it too, groaning loudly when Creed got hit hard and pumping my fist when he got a good shot in. I may have even high-fived someone. The non-boxing scenes evoked some crowd participation. Especially any time that Rocky spoke to Adonis. I heard some guy behind me say some variation of "You tell em' Rocky" a few times. It was one the best in-theater experience I had all year, when you take into account movie quality and crowd participation.
That perfect mix doesn't happen very often, but when it does you leave the theater with a huge smile on your face. Obviously the movie has to be good or enjoyable. (A movie can be bad and still enjoyable.) You can more or less predict whether a movie is going to be good before you watch the movie. You could always tell that Creed II was going to be enjoyable. The crowd is the real wild card in this scenario. You can have a dead crowd that reacts to a comedy the way an disappointed parent reacts to their child deciding to major in art. That sucks. But the crowd can go the other way. and be too loud and too distracting. That might be even worse. Just this year I went to a theater where some teenage kids brought in a portable speaker to play their music and then argued with anyone who looked at them funny. But sometimes the stars align just right and you went up with a lively audience who is also respectful of the fact that other people are there to see the movie too. This is the Goldilocks audience and we found it on the day Creed II was released. The audience was ready, the matinee showing was full, and the crowd was mixed with a diverse group of people, ranging various ages and ethnic groups. And there were hardly any kids!
As the year winds down I can't help but reflect on this past cinematic year. A lot of memorable movies came out. And I saw a hell of a lot thanks to MoviePass (RIP). I thought it was only right to pay tribute to some more films that really got the people going. Not the best movies, just the best in-theater experiences. Below are some of the biggest crowd pleasers of 2018.
Picture this: a giant prehistoric shark reigns terror somewhere in the South China Sea and Jason Statham has to save the day. Of course the crowd was going to show up for that one. Did I have high expectations for the film? Absolutely not! But I had MoviePass and I was in the mood for some dumb fun with my girl. And guess what? The Meg delivered. And judging by the gasps and laughs of my theater audience, I think about 400 people agreed with me. If my memory serves me correct, there may have been a standing O.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
I technically saw this movie twice and so I'm choosing the first screening because the audience was all in. (My personal viewing of the movie was better the second time because I was prepared for Henry Cavill's arm reload.) The audience wanted a vintage Mission:Impossible and they rewarded the movie with praise when it turned out to be the best one of the series. My favorite part of the movie, other than the aforementioned Cavill arm reload, was the bike chase in Paris. But the helicopter set piece took a hold of the crowd and wouldn't let go. I heard a collective sigh of relief when Tom Cruise *spoiler alert* finally saved the day.
So I think I actually hated this movie. I didn't find it scary. It was, however, one of the most disturbing movies I had seen in a while. Maybe disturbing is your definition of scary, but it ain't mine. Nevertheless, I can't deny the the facts, and the facts are this movie really did a number on the audience. Groans and screams filled the airwaves and a particular scene in the movie (you know which one) made one queasy audience member want to walk out of the theater. Fine, that audience member was me. The aftermath of the movie was something else. I probably heard the phrase "That movie really fucked me up" at least a half dozen times. And they weren't lying. I think that movie really fucked me up.
This is the obvious choice. The perfect combination of movie and audience. I saw Black Panther about three times I think and they all had great audiences. But the screening I saw at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland had a distinct feel to it. Of course, it's a Marvel movie and the theater had definitely had a lot of comic book fans who were fawning over all the Easter eggs. The crowd nearly erupted when the movie opened with a scene of kids playing basketball in Oakland. And I'm not sure you can really capture the full scope of the impact that Black Panther had on culture this year without mentioning what the film meant to people of color, and in particular, the black community. That wasn't lost on me that night. The energy in that theater was different than any I've felt while watching a movie. It felt bigger. The cherry on top was that Black Panther was really good, and Ryan Coogler, an Oakland native, put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.
El Guapo is a talented blogger on the rise, regarded by many as a cross between Homer and Socrates. Through real life experience and expertise in many facets of life, the Guaps aims to provide readers with unique takes that will enhance the way they think and live. Keep up with his main blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo’s Brain. NBA fans have to place to go with his basketball blog, Infinite Wisdom on the NBA. Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Leave comments in the section below. Stay Guapo out there!