After a relatively slow year at the theaters, this winter season is going to be enormous for the film industry. There are blockbuster sequels and reboots; Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film is on the way; last year’s Oscar winner for Best Director has a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio; and that’s without even touching on some of the promising comedies and award-seeking dramas that are about to be unleashed.
Really, you should probably just buy a ticket to your favorite theater and hide there from now until Christmas.
But even among all the surefire hits headed our way, there’s one movie that keeps occurring to me as a slightly smaller project with potential to steal some of the season’s thunder. The seventh Rocky film/first Rocky spinoff (however you want to look at it), Creed, will be released on November 25th, and is starting to look like a gem. No, it’s not going to outperform Star Wars: The Force Awakens (damn, that trailer was spectacular), and it probably won’t top Tarantino, Leo, or the Hunger Games as a box office draw either. But there are a few reasons I’m beginning to wonder if Creed could be just as good a film as some of those others.
1. It’s Michael B. Jordan’s Coming Out Party
No one’s ever questioned the action chops of Michael B. Jordan, and at just 28 he’s actually already been around a while. Most were introduced to him either through the movie Hard Ball or the acclaimed series The Wire, but since his breakthrough as a child actor he’s had a bit of bad luck. He was great in Friday Night Lights but was only present during the less popular final seasons; projects like Red Tails and Chronicle are largely forgotten; Fruitvale Station was his best work but wasn’t seen by many people; and this summer, Fantastic Four flopped horrifically. But now, Jordan can finally have his major moment as an adult actor. He’s the star in a movie that’s sure to be seen by a wide audience, and if you’ve seen this guy act before you probably share my opinion that he won’t screw it up.
2. The Core Is Proven
“Notable for its restraint and compassion.” Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to hear about a seventh Rocky film? Well, it’s precisely what a review at What’s On TV said about Fruitvale Station, the previous film written and directed by Ryan Coogler that just so happened to star Jordan. That same core is behind Rocky, so we can hope for similar success.
3. They’re Not Afraid To Go Old School
Too much nostalgia would be a bad thing, but a series as iconic as Rocky demands some throwback material. Both the previews and marketing campaigns have demonstrated that the folks behind Creed aren’t afraid of this. We basically see Jordan reenacting iconic scenes from the original films in the trailers, which should be fun if it’s not taken too far. Also, numerous promotions are as focused on old Rocky as new Creed. For example, a new documentary explaining the connection between the films is coming out this month, and at Gala Bingo’s slots and games page there’s even a featured Rocky scratch card making the rounds. The latter is particularly interesting given that the site often updates its content to reflect popular superheroes and fictional characters—a new Creed game might have made more sense relevancy-wise, but Rocky won out.
4. The Stills Are Awesome
This is a small thing with no actual bearing on what the movie will look like, but Coming Soon released 40 stills from the set, and looking through them it’s easy to get excited. There’s just a great blend of old and new. Even the contrast between Jordan’s modern Nike gear and Stallone’s fedora and work boots makes a strong impression. It looks like the film is at the very least going to be strong visually.
5. It’s Personal For Coogler
This isn’t as specific as Jordan’s opportunity, or a documentary or gaming promotion’s ability to hype up the release. It’s also not as strong an indication as Coogler and Jordan’s success on Fruitvale Station, nor is it as revealing as a set of photos. But the fact that Coogler has a personal stake in the Rocky franchise may be the most important sign of all that this is going to be a serious, and possibly very good, movie. According to Entertainment Weekly, Coogler thought up this whole film as a way to connect with his sick father, who was a huge Rocky fan. Any director or writer can mess up even with the best intentions, but that’s some great motivation to get this right.
Again, it’s not going to outpace The Force Awakens or the other winter blockbusters. But don’t be surprised if Creed winds up being one of the most satisfying movies to close out 2015.