Michael B Jordan film Creed’s superb training montage is a call-back to Rocky; its iconic music took 100 hrs to make
If you are making a sports movie, you already know you are also making a training montage for it. For the unversed, a training montage usually occurs at the climax of the film when the main character is prepping for his ultimate fight. Lots of films abroad and even here, have them. A good desi example is Pa Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai (2021). But if you talk of Hollywood flicks, Rocky movies come to mind almost immediately.
There is Rocky climbing up the stairs in the first Rocky movie, then training in the snow to shape himself up for the upcoming match in Rocky IV, but to retain the essence of such iconic scenes and build something anew from them is a remarkable feat in itself, especially if one is talking about a ‘bit’ that is used almost as a formula and a tool in every sports feature.
And that is why the first Creed movie has a special place in my heart. Because how many times do you see a training sequence begin from a hospital where the OG fighter-mentor is trying his best to motivate a young student? And how many times is there a great soundtrack accompanying such segments, which fills you up with emotion for the lead, but also lets you know that the main event has not even begun. This was just a taste. Creed (2015) filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who is also behind the acclaimed Fruitvale Station and Black Panther films, understood the assignment.
Coogler knew he had to go big in the final training montage of Michael B Jordan’s Adonis Creed, to show us that this person is now a better fighter and more capable of taking on challenges inside a ring than he ever was. This is also a training montage that is unlike any other, because besides offering you that rare soaring feeling for someone else’s victory, it lets you have emotional moments between the mentor and the mentee. When Sylvester Stallone insists on Jordan doing shadow boxing in his hospital room and then offers to do it himself as the latter hesitates, you see the kind of bond that the two share. And when Sly’s Rocky drags himself to the toilet to vomit as he is suffering from a serious health condition, an upset but determined Jordan is seen clenching and unclenching his fist in helplessness.
Of course there are callbacks to Rocky when Jordan aka Creed takes the stairs to train or when Sly’s character sheepishly reminds him that he used to do push-ups with one hand only. The nearly six-minute montage switches from the hospital bed, to bedroom, to the real world in the gym and back again to Creed looking tough but vulnerable as he absent-mindedly scratches his head while looking down at his shoes; tired from training, and life’s struggles. The music by Ludwig Göransson neatly keeps pace with all these changing moods of the film. Coogler also shows us Creed and his main opponent trying their hand at boxing bag as it switches from one frame to the next, and it is not difficult to notice that Creed’s training has been special; there is rhythm and strength to his routine, while his nemesis hits the bag with anger and force, almost mindlessly. You know who should win, even if you don’t know who will.
In the end, we see Michael’s Creed running to meet Sylvester’s Rocky, and the montage comes to a conclusion as he outruns the bikes around him, while a happy Rocky smiles down from his window. The call to battle begins. Speaking about the bit while promoting Creed, Michael B Jordan had said, “It is really cool, you want to have your own training montage, based on famous montages, and it is pretty special. We were just having a good time.”
Meanwhile music composer of Creed, Ludwig Göransson, said he worked over 100 hours to make that music for that particular segment, which ended up being a 40 minute score but ultimately came down to 5-6 minutes in the end. Sound designer Steve Boeddeker commented that he thought the piece was perfect as it complimented the vision of Coogler, of mixing old with the new.
“You’ve got ‘Rocky’ themes. You’ve got ‘Rocky’ instrumentation. You’ve got current music styles. It’s got everything in it and when I heard that stuff, I thought, ‘It’s great because it’s true to the ‘Rocky’ movies, but it’s contemporary,’” Steve told Indiewire.
Meanwhile, Creed star Michael B Jordan recently debuted as a director with Creed III, where he also played the titular role, and shared screen space with the now-controversial Jonathan Majors. Having helmed a sports drama, Jordan spoke to Collider about being on the other side of the camera while filming the training scene, and said, “Get any and everything you can – every push up and every speed bag moment. No. With the montage, it’s about, what are the stakes? Has your character left the montage better than he was, when he first started? I think that’s a good one to stick to.”
Creed is available to stream on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.