2015 brought about a major coincidence in the world of sequels. Three of this year’s biggest movies happened to be the seventh installment of their series: Furious 7, Creed (technically Rocky VII), and The Force Awakens (aka Star Wars: Episode VII).
The best part about this was that all three were really good movies. Each of them are arguably the best in their respective franchise, share the same genre, and were significant films in the context of their respective franchises. Furious 7 was the final film with series mainstay Paul Walker, representing the end of an era for the series. Creed was the spiritual successor to one of the greatest boxing franchises of all-time and will kick off a new potentially awesome series. The Force Awakens was the return to form for the first and greatest space opera ever, bringing Star Wars to a new generation and restoring hope to a franchise that was on a bad foot previously.
I had the privileged of seeing all three this year and thought why not end the year with a fun little comparison. Which film was the best seventh installment of their franchise?
A couple things before we get started. First off, this post was inspired by a video from Collider Movie Talk, an awesome movie podcast that I recommend checking out. Also, please note that this is strictly opinion. I will try to be as fair and subjective as I can, but this isn’t the be all end all. I highly encourage you to make your own post or leave a comment here telling me your opinion on the matter.
This battle will be broken up into categories where I’ll declare a winner of that category. The most categories won will determine a hypothetical winner. Let’s begin.
Lucky for us, all three of these movies are action films, so it’s fair. We have three distinct styles of action: vehicular, boxing and space battle. For the sake of this post we’re going to directly compare each film’s best (or most popular) action scene against each other.
Furious 7 has a lot of crazy action in it. They drive through buildings, blow up helicopters, and duel with wrenches and pipes. However, none of them will compare to Ramsey’s rescue mission. That scene starts with our heroes driving out of a frickin airplane.
What I like about this scene is how utterly ridiculous, yet masterfully thought out it was. There’s a lot going on in this scene with all of our protagonists doing different things at once. Your constantly switching between perspectives, but it never feels hectic. Each perspective is also very distinct from the other. While these guys are getting shot at, someone else jumps into the truck and fights his way through hoards of enemies, then someone else pursues the main villain of the movie in an off-road, downhill vehicular battle. Oh, and when the truck is falling off a cliff and Bryan is trying to escape before the truck falls, so suspenseful.
In Creed, you have about four main boxing matches with a couple mini-battles throughout. It’s hard for me to pick just one battle, but I decided to save the Sporino fight for later, and focus on the final match with Conlan.
Creed is in many ways a retelling of the first Rocky movie, and that’s what I like about it. It has a lot of homages to Rocky’s fight with Apollo, both structurally and in execution. Hell, even the outcome is the exact same. However, it embraces that similarity almost like a modern singer covering an old song. The music and the lyrics are the same, but the way it’s sung makes the song their own. That is seen in the fight’s choreography. It’s fast-paced, brutal and overall epic. Another suspenseful moment in film this year is when Adonis is momentarily TKO’d.
The Force Awakens has the most action out of the three, so picking just one is very difficult. The one I remember most, though, is the escape from Jakku.
This is shortly following Finn and Rey’s first meeting when Finn is discovered by the First Order. I love this scene for so many reasons. It’s a chase scene and an air combat sequence all in one. The dialogue between the two and BB-8 is hilarious and well-placed. We get our first taste of how badass Rey is in combat. Best of all, this scene has the Millennium Falcon in it. Once the Falcon goes in the air, it highlights the strengths of both our heroes, and it’s visually spectacular.
Comparing these scenes is tricky. I find that Furious 7 succeeds in suspense, Creed is the more intense, and Force Awakens is the most epic. So I ask two defining questions. Which one was the most fun, and which was the most memorable? That’s why I personally am giving it Furious 7. Force Awakens comes incredibly close, but even several months after seeing it, I still remember that scene and wanna see it again.
Winner: Furious 7
The incredible thing about both Furious 7 and Force Awakens is how little CGI was used as opposed to practical effects. In Furious 7, the only use of CGI was for the explosions, that time the ground broke, inserting the characters into the more dangerous practical stunts, and some Paul Walker scenes. Star Wars uses CG a bit more often. Some characters are entirely CG, and the space battles are also mostly green screen and CG. Then there’s Creed which uses none.
You may think Creed doesn’t stand a chance in this category, but that’s not necessarily true. Creed actually has excellent visual effects, just in a different way than the other two films. I went on and on about Creed’s cinematography in my review, but this film’s use of slow motion, editing and… not editing in the case of the Sporino match, is equally impressive.
The effects in all these movies share a certain authenticity, which makes this a bit harder to judge than anticipated, but let’s be real. Star Wars has to take this category. In a battle of effects alone, Furious 7 would take this category; but it’s also a battle of cinematography. The editing in Furious 7 is hectic compared to Star Wars. Obviously certain scenes involving Paul Walker need to be that way, but this is a factor for everyone’s scenes, including The Rock and Vin Diesel. Even in Force Awakens’ most hectic moments, the shots always smooth.
Winner: The Force Awakens
These movies are not only action-packed. They’re also really charming, charismatic and funny. I was going to make this a dialogue category, but if I did Furious 7 would lose automatically.
Comedy is very subjective, so this opinion may and will vary. The winner of this category will be the one whose comedy is both frequent and impactful.
In terms of impactful jokes, you have to consider the jokes you remember the most. Personally, I found the most impactful jokes in Furious 7 were the ones said by The Rock. Creed’s funniest moment was Adonis’ brief freak-out before the Sporino match, followed closely by the “cloud” joke. The Force Awakens’ funniest moment was probably Finn and Han’s little talk before going to save Rey, followed closely by BB-8’s thumbs-up.
Frequency is how often you laughed during the movie. This isn’t just a mere counting of jokes, though. You have to omit the times the comedy failed. Off the bat I’ll say Creed isn’t a constantly funny movie. Force Awakens and Furious 7 do master frequency.
So once again, it’s between Furious 7 and Star Wars. Furious 7 has the most jokes of the three, but a couple of them do fail and are forgettable. Star Wars has a lot of situational comedy that adds to it’s frequency count, and they’re more memorable. But many of the jokes are chuckles compared to Furious 7.
Winner: Furious 7
A film’s score is very important to the movie’s tone and personality. If you have a good score or soundtrack, you can’t go wrong. However, it’s not just about making an iconic sound, but also how the sound is integrated into the scenes.
Furious 7 has an uphill battle when competing against a Rocky or Star Wars film- both of which have the most iconic themes in all of cinema. However, what those two don’t have is a Top 40 hit single like Furious 7 does.
Furious 7’s single greatest musical moment is the ending scene with the song “See You Again”. It’s such a well-written song placed at the exact right time and in the exact right way. That song’s inclusion in that scene made that scene one of the best of the year. Furious 7 also has a great score, some of the heaviest and saddest in the Fast & Furious series. Pleasant as it may sound, it is forgettable.
The Force Awakens has the iconic Star Wars theme at the beginning, right where we expected and wanted it. It’s still a great and epic piece which sets the tone. The score is also very pretty and fits the scenes well. The music is a big and noticeable part of every scene. It makes it’s presence known. Unfortunately, it’s only epic in the moment. There isn’t much of a standout musical moment outside Han Solo’s death scene, and even then I only remember a little bit of it (and I saw the movie last week).
So what about Creed? Creed actually has several standout musical moments- both soundtrack and score. Montage scenes bring about songs like “If I Fight, You Fight” or “Lord Knows”, slow scenes have “The Fire”, and the boxing matches have my personal favorite “You’re a Creed”. These are all standout moments done at the right times. Most impressive of all is that this film opted not to directly lift songs from the previous films. Instead, they recreate it or subtly use it as reference.
Creed seems to have done everything right, so they win this category.
We have an all-star cast all around. Huge names like Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone and Dwayne Johnson. We also have new faces like Daisy Ridley, Nathalie Emmanuel and Tessa Thompson. And everyone gives a great performance.
Furious 7’s roster consists of all the familiar faces from the series whose character hasn’t been killed off previously. Keeping in mind that Furious 7 is a silly franchise where high-brow performances usually don’t occur, everyone does a great job. I’ll give major props to Vin Diesel, who accomplishes every emotion he intended to hit. Jason Statham played a very intimidating villain. Kurt Russel and The Rock were awesome. And how can I not mention Paul Walker who gives one of his better performances here (and I’m not just saying that).
Creed had excellent performances. The only returning actor is Sylvester Stallone as Rocky, who I still think deserves the Oscar for best supporting actor. Michael B. Jordan also gives a powerful and emotional performance, as does Tessa Thompson and the rest of the newcomer cast.
The Force Awakens has both veteran and newcomer cast members who put on a great show. My standouts will go out mainly to our two leads: John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. They are acting their asses off and slipping entirely into character. Boyega provides the most sympathetic performance while Ridley gives a very relatable one. Harisson Ford also deserves a nod.
So it comes down to which film had the best performances. To me both Jordan and Stallone outperformed everyone I just mentioned. Star Wars came so close, but Creed had Oscar worthy performances.
No, not the anime kind of fan service. I’m referring to nods. While fan service isn’t essential to a film sequel, it does help. Those nods can go a long way in making your longtime fans feel loved. These are some of the most recognizable franchises in film, after all.
In Furious 7, nods to previous Fast & Furious films are pretty scarce. Other than the montage during Bryan’s farewell scene, there’s just one real nod to talk about. It’s before the final action scene when Dom brings out his “baby” from all the way back in the first film, the 1970 Dodge Charger. If there was any other reference it went over my head.
Creed has many Rocky references and homages. As previously mentioned, “You’re a Creed” is a recreation of the Rocky theme, but there are also many subtle musical homages throughout. Where fan service truly shows is in locations. You revisit Mighty Mick’s gym, Adrian’s restaurant and the classic Rocky steps. Other nods include the discussion of Rocky and Apollo’s secret match in Rocky III, the sea turtles that Rocky owned since Rocky I, and Adonis being given Apollo’s shorts to fight Conlan in.
Star Wars has plenty of fan service throughout The Force Awakens. The way they introduced the Millennium Falcon was excellent. You have Luke’s light saber, the return of even the most obscure characters (like the “It’s a Trap” alien), and the part where Kylo Ren speaks to Vader’s scorched helmet. These are just a couple of the ones I remember.
Really this battle is between Creed and Force Awakens. I’m going to give it to The Force Awakens. While Creed does a great job acknowledging older fans, The Force Awakens is literally one giant reference to the original trilogy and even the prequels. It lives to make old fans smile.
Winner: The Force Awakens
With the battle all tied up, it’s time to discuss the most important aspect to any movie: the story.
Fast & Furious has never been the poster child of high-brow storytelling, but it never had to be. That’s why Furious 7 isn’t immediately out. There’s a certain cleverness to this series’ writing. While these are very simple stories a kindergartner could come up with, it’s handled in a serious manner. There’s an intensity and importance to these movies that captivates the audience. Some would say it takes itself too seriously, and they’re right. These movies are funny and ridiculous. Yet the way it’s written will instills a level of importance and high stakes that propels the story from just stupid to stupidly epic.
Creed has been hailed as the best Rocky since the original, and that’s a perfect way of putting it. Whether Creed surpasses Rocky is a matter of debate, but we can say that Creed’s story is one of the best of the year. It tells a great story that isn’t just about boxing, but about two men representing two opposite stages of an athlete’s life. Structurally speaking, it’s almost the original Rocky verbatim. What makes that not a problem is because the story of Adonis is different from the story of Rocky. This calls for a different, darker, more emotional perspective that the Rocky movies didn’t have. It’s tone makes all the difference and makes Creed standout from the shadows of the Rocky stigma.
The Force Awakens has been accused of being a reskin of A New Hope for very legitimate reasons. This isn’t a complete negative, though. The goal of the movie was to recapture the original feel of Star Wars, and thus took inspiration from the original trilogy. In that way they succeeded. Besides, there’s plenty of things that distinguish Episode VII from IV. It’s a different story handled in the same vain. The writing itself is typical for a Star Wars movie: very dramatic and suspenseful while also being fun and charismatic. The main difference is in its pacing. This is by far the most fast-paced Star Wars movie in the series, albeit the right kind of fast. What could’ve been a hectic onslaught of action was a film that knew when to stop and when to go. The result is some of the most fun you’ll have in a theater this year.
That said, your personal winner will depend on which story appeals to you most. There’s no wrong answer, here.
People will choose Furious 7 for its less involved and emotionally-charged story that’s tells a story of revenge and the value of family. People will choose The Force Awakens for a fun, epic, charming movie based in fantasy that tells a story of confronting your fears, doing the right thing, and finding your place in this world. People will choose Creed for an intense, inspiring, emotional movie that tells a story of determination, loyalty, and making your own legacy.
Personally, I prefer the story of Creed. To me, Creed was the most compelling of the three and one of my favorites of the year. One that I can’t wait to revisit again.
So, our final winner is Creed. Again, this is entirely my opinion. There’s plenty of merit in all three of these films as I said. The question is, which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments or try tackling this yourself.
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!
(This is by far my longest post. If you’re still reading this, I appreciate it greatly. Take care and Happy New Year!)