I watched a movie over Christmas weekend. It was the seventh film in a series, meant as a sort of soft reboot, using older actors from the previous films to help tie the new characters in. Sure, some of the beats of the film were repetitive, but the formula was there and it was oh, so comfortable. Plus, the film had a great musical score.
Yes, if you read the headlines of this story, you know I’m not talking about the new Star Wars film, but Creed. With all due respect to that galaxy far, far away, Creed may be the part VII film I enjoyed most this year. I say only “may” because Star Wars was good and I’m not trying to knock it. Yet Creed connects you to great characters and, grounded in the real world as it is, it draws you in heavily during the film and sticks with you long after you leave. Star Wars gave me the same feeling, I suppose, but only in the “this is a wonderful fantasy” sort of way. Creed made me more interested in my own life, my own relationships, and my own ability to be at my best. Creed has everything that made the original Rocky films so great and so legendary.
If 2015 should be remembered as anything cinematically, it should be remembered for both Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For years, critics have decried the constant stream of adaptations, reboots and sequels put into cinemas. This year, two of the best films released were the seventh entries in their series. Both films tapped into what made the originals great. They should be applauded for attracting new fans and reigniting interest in their originals. And more importantly, both had the emotional takeaways and stirring stories we want from movies.
For comparison, some other critically-lauded films which weren’t originals this year include The Martian, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Paddington (yes, Paddington, which is perhaps one of the finest family films to ever come out). Pixar put out two good-to-great films this year. Can we really call Pixar films originals and not a quasi-series of films? Sure they have original characters (most of the time), but all Pixar films share the same design and storytelling DNA, in the same way a film series does. Bridge of Spies was incredible, but it’s based on real events. An adaptation. Oh original films, where art thou?
Critics who implore the studios for more original content clearly have a bias for such content. It makes no sense that the best films are always original stories. To have to introduce a whole cast of characters and carry them through a plot is a tough task to ask each time a film is viewed. It’s tough for writers and viewers. That’s why only a few original movies out of the dozens released each year are strikingly good. Audiences want to feel connected to the characters on screen and a return to old casts with new plots helps to facilitate this.
Marvel is famously doing this to much success, despite the fact that movie pundits all over the internet are constantly predicting their downfall (like here and here). And even though Age of Ultron left much to be desired in terms of pacing, it also shows that the state of blockbuster entertainment – and Hollywood in general – is very strong. Of course not every reboot or sequel will be good, but then again, neither is every original film. (Watching old films this weekend, I caught Kingpin, the 90s comedy, and yikes, that original film is terrible.) Creed and The Force Awakens remind us that sequels/reboots can renew audience interest and reinvigorate a franchise.
I think this makes for a fantastic time at the movie theater, where originals and reboots and sequels and prequels all vie to be the best films, each offering a different sort of experience. It’s a great time to be a movie fan!
+: Rocky is back! Talks, walks, and acts like a Rocky film. The new cast is fantastic. Good blend of old and new.
-: Cinematography and film direction at times leaves something to be desired.
Our Score: B+
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% | IMDB: 8.7 | Metacritic: 82