Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Alternate Best Actor 2015: Michael B. Jordan in Creed

Michael B. Jordan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Adonis "Donny" Johnson in Creed.

Michael B. Jordan in an interesting fashion has to in a way do what his character is doing in the film, which is to some how live past the ghost of another. Where Adonis must some how find a way to deal with the legacy of his father the legendary heavy weight champion Apollo Creed, Jordan must someone how deal with the ghost of Carl Weathers, to what Weathers might say in response "I'm not dead!". The character of Apollo Creed and the performance given by Carl Weathers I think is one of the best elements of the Rocky franchise as a whole to the point that it even allowed for this sequel. Apollo actually developed the most logically across all the sequels, thanks in part to Weathers's consistently solid work throughout the series, after all he's the only guy who seems to think it's strange that there's a robot in Rocky IV. It's only fitting that in the end it is Apollo who has allowed there to be one more sequel in the mix. Now I'll admit coming into the film I was bit like the naysayers featured in the film, "you'll never be as good as Apollo", I was saying "You'll never be as good as Weathers" therefore having really an unfair expectation that he'll have to be exactly what came before, but just like Adonis himself, Michael B. Jordan isn't here to simply copy the work that he done by his predecessor, he's here to be something new that stands on its own accord.

Adonis's struggle as a character is a rather peculiar one technically speaking in that even though he had a hard early childhood, his later adoption by Apollo's wife left him rather well off. However that does not leave a certain chip on his shoulder as he's still has his past, though he is not likely to quickly find sympathy due to his present standing. Jordan has a challenge for us to even care about Adonis's story of trying to make it as a professional boxer, considering it is not exactly his only option as it sort of was for Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in the original 1976 film. This film is smart enough to point that out, but in the end both Rocky and Adonis wish to prove something. Where Rocky's struggle was based on proving he was not just a washed up bum never worth anything, Adonis's struggle on the other hand is prove himself not to be seen blemish on his father's record. With this Jordan carries this certain intensity with his own presence that is incredibly well handled by him, especially when compared to another boxing performance from 2015, that being Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw as Billy Hope. Now in this case neither man is suppose to be a Jake Lamotta sort, that being a vicious thug at heart, yet both have moments where their temper gets the best of them.

With Gyllenhaal he basically indicated Billy Hope as basically a calm guy except when the script decided that he needed to be angry, and it's made worse that his anger issues are resolved completely off screen in that film. Jordan makes this much more of constant, but not in that he technically has serious anger problems. What Jordan does have is that intensity, a certain fire in Adonis, that's always there to some capacity, as though it is not only ingrained from his past, but also only exacerbated by being reminded of his father's legacy. In the moments where his father is brought up to mock him Jordan shows the way the intensity moves in a negative fashion. There's even a slight aggression he brings when it seems like there is mention of the man. Jordan is excellent by showing this as Adonis raising his defenses in the moment. He naturally wavers though if the issue is not pushed, however when it is, Jordan is terrific in portraying it almost as an instinctual reaction from Adonis when reminded of heritage. Jordan importantly keeps this as the very specifically attached to when and only when Apollo in mentioned. Jordan reveals so well this considerable vulnerability intertwined with the idea of his father, and so well paints the relationship with his father throughout his life, despite the fact that he never even met his father.

Jordan remarkably is able to carry the father/son connection into the ring, which is pivotal for his character here. The reason for his drive to fight is never in question, and Jordan makes an absolute sense to it. He is able to make this part of his performance even in the fight scenes. In these moments he channels the intensity once again though in this time a way that works with him instead of against him. In the fight, the will to find that connection with his father is even present, as the passion of the fights is that of man living up to being the man he feels he must be to be his father's son. Now what's great about Jordan's work is that he does not allow this idea to override his performance. This is an essential part of Adonis in Jordan's performance, but he never allows it to control Adonis completely. When his father and the fights are not in the topic of direct discussion Adonis is a pretty normal guy. On this note Jordan is charming in his role, but I should note not in the same way that Weathers was in that original film. Weathers was a guy who could control a room with his charm, Donny does not have the experience and it is fitting that Jordan is not so larger than life. The charm though is there, and really Jordan allows for the idea that perhaps given time and experience he could be the showman his father was.

Jordan is particularly likable here and there are some memorable moments in his performance that might even seem minor, yet work because he makes them so genuine. I particularly love his enthusiasm about hearing his chance to take on the world champ. His charm perhaps best shown in his scenes with Adonis's love interest, a singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Now of course Rocky had his relationship with Adrian at the center of the film as well, though the one in Creed plays out a bit differently as Bianca has already come to terms with condition, in this case degenerative hearing disorder. Jordan and Thompson are splendid together as they even manage to work through the standard romantic couple starter where they meet through an unpleasant circumstance. They do not dwell on the idea importantly, but even get through that in a natural fashion that ends up working just fine for the springboard for their relationship. This does not get as much focus I would say as the romance in the original Rocky, nevertheless it gives Jordan a chance to be quite endearing striking up with Thompson a very believable connection between the two. I actually really like that they do not necessarily even make this the match made in heaven, what the two do is a convincing depiction of two people coming together.

As in the original Rocky there is a keen focus on the relationship between the boxer and his trainer. Well Donny gets the chance to train with Rocky himself. As I mentioned in Stallone's review, he and Jordan are great together. They play off each other so well with Stallone as Rocky being his usual low key self, while Jordan is properly much more energetic on his side of things. The two have a great comedic chemistry just in small little moments through Jordan's outgoing manner that clashes perfectly against Rocky taking things one at a time as usual. The two do not leave it as just a funny odd couple though as they do indeed move past that. Jordan and Stallone both are able to build the warmth between the two quite naturally, as it is wonderfully informal as sorts. The two become like family through there interactions as Rocky trains Donny to professionally box. The tested moment, when Rocky receives more terrible news, is a heartbreaking scene due to both performances. Jordan is great by placing the warmth of Adonis right upfront showing just how much their uncle/nephew relationship has meant to him. When he is rebuffed in the moment by Rocky, Jordan is so moving in his subtle portrayal of Donny falling apart internally from being abandoned yet again. When Donny and Rocky come back together it not only is completely earned the two only strengthen the relationship further. One of the highlights of the film is the two of them slowly getting up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. At this point Jordan and Stallone have made Donny and Rocky family through only the course of the film and create such a poignancy in having the two reach the top together. Jordan like Donny certainly gets important support from the old champ, while having to contend with another champ. Jordan lives up to Weather's memorable work through his own performance, not by copying what Weathers did, but finding his own path, making Adonis a character who does indeed stand out on his own accord.

29 comments:

Robert MacFarlane said...

"I have to prove... that I'm not a mistake." That line? That line broke me.

Anonymous said...

He was truly great.
Louis: For a version of To Live and Die in L.A. in the 1950's, who would be your cast and director?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Directed by Fritz Lang:

Chance: Cliff Robertson
Masters: Lee Marvin
Vukovich: Peter Falk
Bianca Torres: Terry Moore
Carl: Joe Turkel
Grimes: John Carradine

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your overall thoughts on Burt Lancaster as an actor?

Calvin Law said...

Brilliant, brilliant performance.

1. Hardy
2. Segel
3. Jordan
4. Depp
5. Mendelsohn

Calvin Law said...

You loved him even more than I expected. So glad his career's not going to suffer for F4.

Calvin Law said...

Also, excellent Brando Godfather impression eh?

Alex Marqués said...

1.Hardy
2.Jordan
3.Segel
4.Mendelsohn
5.Depp

JackiBoyz said...

1. Tom Hardy
2. Michael B. Jordan
3. Jason Segel
4. Ben Mendelsohn
5. Johnny Depp

1. Michael Fassbender
2. Ian McKellen
3. Jacob Tremblay
4. Jason Bateman
5. Ben Foster

Luke Higham said...

1. Hardy
2. Segel
3. Jordan
4. Mendelsohn
5. Depp

Luke Higham said...

Louis: You've yet to highlight Alternate 2015 Supporting on the sidebar.

Anonymous said...

1. Hardy
2. Segel
3. Jordan
4. Mendelsohn
5. Depp

Luke Higham said...

Either Foster or Tremblay will be reviewed next.

Robert MacFarlane said...

You need to stop this guessing game thing, Luke. It doesn't matter who he reviews next.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: Fine. :)

Luke Higham said...

Robert: Did you finish Macbeth.

GM said...

1. Jordan
2. Depp
3. Hardy
4. Mendelsohn
5. Segel

RatedRStar said...

A bit off topic, but man you have to feel sorry a little for Jake Gyllenhaal, he got snubbed for Nightcrawler, then starred in an below par Oscar bait film and got nothing despite Harvey himself saying he was a contender, then stars in once considered contender Demolition, which has 50% on Rotten Tomatoes lol.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: Well, I'm sure things will get better for him again. :)

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm sure Jake will win once he plays Martin Shkreli.

RatedRStar said...

Nocturnal Animals maybe?

RatedRStar said...

Louis: You might know this, or anyone actually, who is the main character of Marat/Sade, because I have heard good things about the 67 film but I have no idea who is lead and who is supporting?

RatedRStar said...

I'm just about to go to bed, I am currently on 1977 on the sheet and does anybody at all have any suggestions for 1977 Lead? I have only one person (Fernando Rey) and I am not sure if I want to rely on picking Al Pacino and Henry Winkler when even though they got Globe nominations, their films havent really done well lol.

I must admit when I saw the trailer for Pacino in Bobby Deerfield, it doesnt look too bad actually, Pacino looks surprisingly low key.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Lancaster had a definite star power and even when he gave his bland performances that was still evident to a certain degree. Lancaster I always found interesting how extreme he'd go from either his more low key performances to his wild man Elmer Gantry style of performances. He wasn't always great, but when he was he was really great.

Robert:

Even if he was amazing, I'm pretty sure he'd be snubbed for the nature of the role as well, too close to Lou Bloom really.

RatedRStar:

It's really an ensemble film, but Magee might have the largest role though that's not saying a great deal.

Robert MacFarlane said...

In all seriousness, Macon Blair would be the PERFECT Martin Shkreli.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Now that you mention, yes he would be.

RatedRStar said...

I am very tempted to watch Al Pacino in Cruising, just to see if I am on the love side or hate side lol.

mcofra7 said...

1. Hardy
2. Jordan
3. Segel
4. Depp
5. Mendelsohn

1. Bateman
2. Tremblay
3. Fassbender
4. McKellen
5. Foster

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