EmperorOTN’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've just left the theater and let me tell you, this most recent entry in this long running franchise is an absolute travesty to the series. And I know I'm not the only one, the theater was absolutely silent the whole time I was watching it I think. Maybe a few people cheered or laughed, but I think it's more likely that they were laughing at the movie. Because it is a joke.
I could tell something was wrong right from the start. We start off in this boys' prison or something and I'm like, "is this an episode of THE WIRE?" There's like a fight or something. Then I find out the kid that started the fight is our main character. What, I'm supposed to sympathize with this rabble-rouser?
Then Phylicia Rashad enters the picture and less than five minutes in she drops a bomb that ruins the film. That the "One and Only" Apollo Creed had an affair which produced a child. It totally tarnishes the legacy of this beloved character. Little did I know this was only the beginning of beloved characters being ruined!
So we jump ahead (no Rocky Theme over the title, by the way. *DING*) and Michael B. Jordan is already a boxer? Like he just jumps right into the ring with someone. We don't see any training or build up to this. Where did he learn to fight? In fighting school? If there was a line of dialogue that explained where he might have learned to fight I missed it because I wasn't paying attention.
Instead of this movie starting on the hard streets of Philadelphia, we begin in L.A. for some reason? I could smell a woke agenda coming. We see that Adonis has a great life, great job, great home, great mom, but he wants to be a boxer for some reason? What could boxing possibly get him? More money? More house? They provide no motivation for his character. This is like Moviewriting 101, people.
Then Michael B. Jordan gets into another fight. We get it, movie. He's a strong, independent dude. Maybe try writing an actual story instead of trying to sell me on this character. I actually went to the bathroom during this scene, because I already saw him fight! Go back to Chicago, Jordan!
We eventually get to Philadelphia. Although not Philly as I remember it in the 1980s! They show the Rocky statue, but it's at the bottom of the Art Museum stairs, which is wrong. That's not where it was at the end of 5, I think. Again, absolute disrespect for the character and fans, specifically me.
Tessa Thompson shows up, the actress from that highly offensive DEAR WHITE PEOPLE film, so my woke alarm was going off like crazy. She's a musician and her music sucks by the way. Once again, it looks like she's just a born musician. Where did she learn music? At music school? Give me a break. We find out she's going deaf or something, sounded like a made-up illness inserted for the sake of drama, which completely contradicts her musical ambitions. You ever hear (no pun intended, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) of a deaf musician? Of course not! Because that would be ridiculous. Oh and by the way, this deaf thing never comes back. It's not like she goes deaf in the third act or something. Making this element completely pointless! Also did you see her hair?
I might have been able to forgive all these horrible choices if it weren't for what happened next. If you haven't seen the film, I suggest you stop reading this review right now. I don't want to ruin your memories. I'm serious, I'm afraid this information might hurt someone. The movie doesn't just drop the ball, but feels like it's going out of its way to ruin a great character like Rocky Balboa.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Sylvester Stallone was unhappy with the direction his character took in this film. He brings no energy or excitement to his performance. At times, I felt like he was actually mocking the material. And talking directly to me and saying this movie objectively sucked. I read a quote somewhere out of context where Stallone said he had "questions" when the director first approached him, so I'm not just making shit up.
First of all, you're telling me Rocky didn't ever speak to Creed's wife after the funeral? Not even after he finally avenged his friend's death? Rocky would never do something like that. Hell, Adrian wouldn't have let him. Why is this line even here? Just to get under my skin specifically, that's why!
Then Rocky is all like, "I don't want to train you, Michael B. Jordan." And we find out that he's just let Mickey's gym be taken over by a bunch of other people? Not just a disrespect to the characters, but to the legacy of boxing.
Oh and Paulie died off camera, by the way. Sorry to everyone out there who loves Paulie, but he's dead. When I was leaving the theater, I turned to a bunch of smiling children and screamed, "HOW CAN YOU LAUGH, PAULIE IS DEAD." I was asked to leave. R.I.P. Burt Young.
Also of camera, his son! Who is only mentioned in passing. He moved to Seattle. This small detail completely destroys the emotional resolution of the previous film. What point is there to watching that film now ever again? Like I said, this movie is going out of its way to upset me!
Worst of all, and I mean worst of fucking all, out of fucking nowhere (literally, absolutely no set up for this), Rocky gets cancer! I thought this movie was about boxing? Well no matter. This is Rocky Balboa we're talking about. He could kick cancer's ass in less than 5 rounds. For a moment I actually thought to myself, "finally, we're going to see what we all came here for; Rocky boxing." But guess what, Rocky doesn't want to fight it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Rocky doesn't want to fight cancer? His whole life was about fighting! All he did was fight! I don't remember his doing anything else.
So he's just going to roll over and die? Rocky absolutely would never do that! Rocky in ROCKY 1 wouldn't have done that. Rocky in ROCKY 2 wouldn't have done that. Rocky in ROCKY 3 wouldn't have done that. Rocky in ROCKY 4 wouldn't have done that. Rocky in ROCKY 5 wouldn't have done that. Rocky in ROCKY BALBOA wouldn't have done that. There is absolutely no way something could have happened between films 6 and 7 to change Rocky so drastically. Now I understand why Stallone had questions!
This is the one time I found myself agreeing with Michael B. Jordan's character. Although the selfish prick made it all about himself. He's got like abandonment issues or something? What is he talking about? He's got his mom and money at home. He's doing fine! Did the movie just forget its own story.
I'm not even really sure what happened next. I shotgunned a large Coke and was pissing like a race horse for most of the movie. But it felt like I got up, went to the bathroom, came back, and suddenly Rocky is ready to fight cancer. What? So what was the point of this cancer subplot if it just gets resolved? Again, the plot it pointless!
Oh and even then Rocky doesn't fight anyone. He just sits in a chair like a pussy. Guess we can't have him outshining the new characters! And these doctors that are treating him, they've got no backstory either. They just show up. Where did they learn to fight cancer? At doctor school? Give me a break.
As if things weren't embarrassing enough, suddenly shit started getting a little too familiar, if you know what I mean. Because of some silly injury, a high profile boxing match is cancelled. So managers have to scramble to find an opponent, creating a chance for the basically unknown Michael B. Jordan. GEE, WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS PLOT BEFORE!
Movies should be predictable in ways that are surprising and surprising in ways that are predictable.
So the last half or so I guess is just a rehash of the first ROCKY film. Even down to him not winning the fight, just going the distance. What distance was he even trying to go? Movie never made that clear.
Also I watched this with my buddy who would've been a professional boxer if he hadn't set off an m-80 in his hand back in High School, and he said this was some of the worst fight choreography he had ever seen. And I find myself agreeing with him! And none of the other fights looked like this either.
All in all, I don't see this Ryan Coogler fella ever making another successful and/or Oscar nominated film.