It was probably unfair of me to assume Creed would be one of my favorite films of 2015 before I walked into the theater. Previously in the tragic Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan together made my favorite film of 2013. A year earlier, Jordan costarred in Chronicle, a left-field surprise that became my no-contest favorite of 2012. Prior to that, he was in season one of The Wire and thereby granted a lifetime pass for any future catastrophes beyond his control.
On the other hand, I’d only seen three of the six Rocky films — the first one as part of a successful ’90s mission to watch every Best Picture Oscar winner ever; Rocky III at the drive-in, where a furious, pre-laughingstock Mr. T frightened 10-year-old me almost to tears; and the shamelessly jingoistic yet totally engrossing Rocky IV, the only time in my life I’ve ever seen dudes in a theater jumping out of their seats and cheering and fist-pumping at all-American awesomeness overload. Yes, really. I’ve never felt the urge to keep up with the Italian Stallion since then, or to backtrack for the second one.
So in fairness, I had to allow that Creed could’ve gone either way.