Sport Market 2018 movie awards: Creed II is good, but Free Solo better

The eighth instalment in the enduring Rocky franchise is a solid boxing movie and one of the best sport movies of 2018. Yet the sport documentary Free Solo is better. Just the thought of Free Solo will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

It isn’t exactly what The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars — arguably the best sequel in motion picture history — but Creed II is good.

The eighth instalment in the enduring Rocky franchise and second of two spinoff sequels co-starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, is a solid boxing movie and one of the best sport movies of 2018. Yet the sport documentary Free Solo is better.

Just the thought of Free Solo will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It is the remarkable story of Alex Honnold, the fearless millennial and professional rock climber who scaled the famous cliff El Capitan without a rope or climbing safety gear. We watch him become the first and only climber to ever scale El Capitan — a 3,000-foot vertical in Yosemite National Park — knowing that one slip would mean instant death.

Many of us begin to tense up around the 10-foot mark at the local wall climbing gym. Imagine that sensation times 300!

It’s that sensation which makes Free Solo such a compelling motion picture. And it’s the feeling that makes it the Best Picture and Best Documentary in The Sport Market Movie Awards for 2018.

It has already won 10 international awards, including best documentary at the British Academy Film Awards, best sport documentary at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards and the People’s Choice Documentary at the Toronto Film Festival.

It is the only sport movie nominated for an Oscar this year and, according to Bing, it is behind only RBG — the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic — as the second most likely documentary to win Sunday night at the 91st Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Its US$19.1 million in box office revenues is terrific by documentary standards, but is a far cry from the US$207.6 million ticketed for Creed II, which is not only the box office champion among sport movies in 2018, but also the Best Drama.

It cuts its chops on a 7.9 IMdb score and 83 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and makes Jordan in the title role the best actor in a sport movie in 2018 and Stallone best supporting actor.

Creed II, the second chapter in the story of world boxing champion Adonis Creed, is inextricably linked with Rocky IV, the best-selling of the Rocky movies at US$300.4 million in absolute dollars and third overall in current day equivalence (US$701.05 million in 2019 dollars).

That 1985 instalment saw Ivan Drago of the then-Soviet Union kill Rocky Balboa’s friend, Adonis’s father and former champion Apollo Creed (played back in the day by Carl Weathers). Thirty-four years later, the rivalry between Balboa and Drago is renewed in the dangerous next generation showdowns between the young Creed and Ivan’s brute of a son Viktor Drago.

The Creed spinoffs are worthy successors to the Rocky movies in terms of both critical and commercial success. They have earned more than US$412 million in box office receipts in their two outings since 2015, easily recouping the $50 million production budgets for each film.

And the good news for executive producers Ryan Coogler and Guy Riedel is that Creed II will soon surpass what Creed I achieved in combined box office and DVD sales just over three years ago. Creed III is a when, not an if, because the first two spinoff sequels have done their part to consolidate the Rocky films as the most successful sport movie franchise in history.

Since the original Rocky scored US$225 million in 1976 dollars ($992.95 million in 2019 dollars) and upset Taxi Driver as best picture at the Academy Awards that year, the eight Rocky films have to date earned US$3.913 billion in today’s dollars. That is likely more than the box office dollars earned by all of the other sport movies combined over the past 43 years. It’s an average haul of US$489 million per film in today’s dollars.

Of course, the Rocky/Creed series is yet another testament to the appeal of boxing movies as traditional winners in Hollywood. They are poster children for both sides of the underdog story, stories of redemption and the adversity typically overcome on the road from rags to riches.

Ultimately, they are about love, family and friendship in the most basic of ways.

Some of the other more compelling sport movies in 2018 continued the golden trend toward more and better biopics and documentaries in the years since ESPN pumped out its first 30 for 30 films 10 years ago in 2009.

Among the entries in those categories last year, above and beyond Free Solo, were Andre the Giant (featuring the life of 7-5 pro wrestler Andre Roussimoff), Trautmann (the profile of German POW Bert Trautmann, who refused repatriation to his mother land after the Second World War and went on to play goal for Manchester City in a memorable 1956 FA Cup Final), Zion (the incredible story of legless wrestler Zion Clark) and John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection.

What we’re also seeing in recent years is the proliferation of sport movies around the world. In 2018, foreign films in the sport genre included Coach (Trener in Russia), The Merger (an Australian Rules Football film), Campeones (Spain) and Champion (South Korea).

In an interesting geopolitical twist, Back to Berlin, the story of the 2015 Maccabiah Games held that year in the German capital and site of the 1936 Olympic Games presided over by Adolph Hitler, was initially released in China.

Yet nowhere was there as much traction in overseas sport movies last year as there was in Bollywood, with Boxer III, Captain, Kuido Khundi, Kanaa, Mr. Chandramouli and Mukkabaaz all hailing from India. The investment in sport movies is only a reflection of that country’s significant growth this decade in sports beyond the national religion that is cricket.

With the NBA recently opening a regional office in Mumbai, it is only a matter of time before basketball movies become a thing in the world’s second most populous country and fifth-largest economy.

The Sport Market 2018 Movie Awards

Winners in the 12th annual edition of The Sport Market Movie Awards recognizing excellence in the genre of sport movies

Best picture:Free Solo (rock climbing)

Best drama:Creed II (boxing)

Best comedy:Uncle Drew (basketball)

Best biopic:Andre the Giant (wrestling)

Best documentary:Free Solo (rock climbing)

Best Canadian:Racetime — La Course des tuques (sled racing)

Best animated:Racetime — La Course des tuques (sled racing)

Box office champion:Creed II $212.1 million

Best actor: Michael B. Jordan (Creed II/boxing)

Best actress: Tessa Thompson (Creed II/boxing)

Best supporting actor: Sylvester Stallone (Creed II/boxing)

Best supporting actress: Korrina Rico (Glass Jaw/boxing)

Best cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Brigitte Nielsen, Florian Munteanu, Milo Ventimiglia (Creed II/boxing)

Best director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solo/rock climbing)

Best screenplay: Sylvester Stallone, Cheo Hodari Coker (Creed II/boxing)

Best cinematography: Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer (Free Solo/rock climbing)

Best editing: Bob Eisenhardt (Free Solo/rock climbing)

Best original musical score: Marco Beltrami (Free Solo/rock climbing)

Best song in a sport movie: Gravity by Tim McGraw and Lori McKenna (Free Solo/rock climbing).

Best soundtrack in a sport movie: Creed II/boxing (two soundtrack albums featuring music by various artists including Eminem, Lil Wayne, Tessa Thompson, Bon Iver, Slim Jxmmi, Rick Ross and Mike WiLL Made-it)

Sport business commentator and marketing executive Tom Mayenknecht of Emblematica is the host of The Sport Market. The show on TSN 1040 AM rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans.

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