WARNING: THIS ARTICLE HAS SPOILERS!!!
Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, the little known son of the late champion boxer Apollo Creed from the original Rocky franchise. Adonis Johnson wants to become a professional boxer like Apollo but wants to do it without the help of Apollo's name. In some ways this becomes a burden to Adonis because he knows that with Apollo's last name fame and fortune would only be a step away but he believes the only way he will separate himself from his dad is to earn the fame himself.
1. Michael B. Jordan's performance is out of this world
As Jordan plays Adonis, you can see him communicate this inner struggle to every other character in the movie. Especially as he looks Rocky in the face and explains his inner motivation for wanting to become a champion boxer. The way he convinces Rocky to train him even though Rocky knows what happened to Apollo is incredible; Adonis' conviction changes his mind. The way Jordan really brings out the depth in Adonis' character is quite unreal. He very quietly shows that Adonis' link to Rocky ends up not just being that of a family friend, but actual family.
2. Rocky is back!!!
Now, I know we are used to remembering Rocky Balboa as the slugger for four movies who only delivered punches and blows, but it's the feeling you get as you listen to Rocky in this movie that brings back his "Italian Stallion" personality. His awkward remarks and jokes are renewed as well as his friendliness to others. As a coach you can see his advice to Adonis is sort of nostalgic to him as he remembers going through a similar process to become the boxer he was.
And more nostalgia: He still talks about Adrian - I guess it's a must for Rocky movies that he does it at least once. He goes to her grave and talks to her and, in addition, talks to Paulie, who he says he never forgot and still remembers. Even though he wasn't always nice to Rocky, he considers him family. Basically, all of the things you remember in the old Rocky movies come back quietly but nicely so that it doesn't take the focus away from Adonis' character. Yet it still adds a lot of depth to the movie.
3. The chemistry between Jordan and Stallone is excellent!!!
I was wondering before I watched the movie, "Will the chemistry between Jordan and Stallone show on screen?" Sure enough, it did more than that. It didn't just show up, it was really what made the movie as good as it was. Jordan and Stallone really do a fantastic job of creating this relationship between their characters on multiple levels. One level is that Jordan is the boxer and Stallone is the trainer while another is Stallone being some of the only family Adonis believes he has left besides his mother. It is interesting to see that both relationships are balanced on screen and neither takes up more time than the other, allowing for a smooth transition between them whenever the story needs it. On screen, you can see that the strength of their chemistry allows for a very fluid plot line.
4. Their relationship is hilarious!!!
Adonis and Rocky come from two very different ages and Jordan and Stallone do a tremendous job of showing this. I think there was one point in the movie where Rocky was showing Adonis the different warm ups and routines he could do to improve his game. After writing it down on the piece of paper and handing it to Adonis, Adonis takes the paper and takes a photo of it and hands it back to Rocky. Rocky, confused, asks him if he wants to keep the paper and Adonis proceeds to tell him he doesn't need it because it's stored in the cloud. After Adonis jogs off, Rocky really puzzled at this looks into the clouds and just stares for a bit like, "It went to the cloud? You can do that? Huh well that's new."
Also, Adonis is all about getting into the action while Rocky is about patience and preparation and getting ready for a fight, not rushing into one. His methods are bit more old school and Adonis has to adjust. For example, Rocky wants to go to a gym in downtown Philly and wants Adonis to jog there. Adonis asks if it's far and Rocky kinda shrugs and says not really. So while Rocky drives there, Adonis has to try to jog and keep up as he drives. They end up going several miles and Rocky gets out of the car and yawns while Adonis eventually reaches his car panting and out of breath. Adonis says, "I thought you said it wasn't far," and Rocky replies saying, "Not if you drive," and then gives a wide smile.
5. There are several nods to and major symbolism from the old movies
- Rocky's training music, while slightly modernized, comes on as Adonis trains, symbolizing a new generation of fighter while still retaining the basics from legends of past generations like Apollo and Rocky
- Adonis' gift from his mother is Apollo's boxing shorts, showing her faith in her son and also that he is his father's son in every way
- The way the fight ends at the conclusion of the movie is hugely symbolic, even though most people might not notice. Adonis ends up losing even after giving the fight of his life, but he makes it through the entire fight. Does this ring a bell, anyone? (pun intended). Why, yes, it does actually. It brings us back to the first Rocky movie when Apollo barely survived the first fight with Rocky, but Rocky still lost as a result. Even though Rocky lost, he went on to build a very successful career and become a legend. This ending was symbolic because it implied that Adonis' boxing career will take a similar path. He will become a boxing legend just like his coach and father.
- At the end is more symbolism. Rocky and Adonis climb up the steps leading to Rocky's memorial. This really has two separate meanings. One is that Rocky's struggle to get up the stairs and Adonis' ease with the same task shows a passing of the torch between generations. One legend's story finishes as another begins. The second is that Rocky climbing the stairs again and reaching his statue at his age is symbolic because it means that in his heart, he will always be a champion, no matter how old he gets.