Creed has been celebrated by critics all over the nation because it was so much better than anyone expected it could be. That has led to legitimate talk about its Oscar chances (even in the Best Picture category). Sylvester Stallone is now a probable nominee for Best Supporting Actor. Here, we highlight the well-crafted screenplay.
A lot of Creed’s Oscar buzz has (justifiably!) been gathering around Sylvester Stallone’s supporting role as Rocky Balboa. He is unequivocally great, giving his best performance in years as the aging pugilist. It is a subtle and extremely intelligent portrayal. He has almost moved into a full-fledged “favorite” role for Best Supporting Actor. However, what blew me away most about the sixth(!) sequel to 1976’s Rocky was Aaron Covington and Ryan Coogler’s perceptive script. Taking the history of six previous Rocky movies and injecting it into the lives of these two down on their luck characters (including Michael B. Jordan’s believable Apollo Creed descendant Adonis) was no easy task. (Just ask Rockys III through Balboa.) But Covington and Coogler (also the director) manage to craft a movie that is part perfectly-calibrated homage and part unique creation. All of the performances are great (Tessa Thompson rounds out the three main characters as Adonis’ prospective love interest) but the script’s creation of a believable world that did not exist simply to be populated with tired Rocky archetypes is the real MVP.
One could make an argument for Oscar nominations in many different categories for Creed (Variety stumped for its cinematographer Maryse Alberti while the National Society of Film Critics handed Michael B. Jordan its Best Actor award) but it’s all held together by the screenplay. Sure, there are a few fairly heavy-handed moments and some nifty coincidences but it doesn’t let any of its characters off the hook. Rocky is stubborn and stupid at some points, Adonis is bullheaded and lets his pride get in the way far too often, but they both feel much more relatable than the nigh unto invincible Rocky Balboa that was able to take a barbarous beating from Ivan Drago in Rocky IV and still have the superhuman stamina and energy to defeat the Russian. Perhaps that is what ultimately feels so beautiful and refreshing about the script: yes, it is realistic and gritty, and, yes, it’s steeped in nostalgia, but it does not settle (even though it could have). You can feel that Coogler was not going to let any of his cast or crew get away with being lazy and he set the precedent by writing a script that took the characters seriously. If the popular support for Creed ends up snagging it a few extra nominations come January 14th, I think that would be great. But if one of them is for Best Adapted Screenplay, I will be ecstatic.