It may seem weird that I’m saying a role that got such rave reviews from a lot of people was underrated. But it was. It was not appreciated and respected in the way that it deserved to be. The way Mark Ruffalo, and Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Bryan Cranston get respected. It was pushed to the side by a lot of actors and people in the film industry who seem to believe that Michael B. Jordan still doesn’t know how to flush out a character. I hate saying people are wrong about subjects that are so subjective, as in ones acting performance, but they are wrong.
This role was one where if you can’t relate to or understand the subject matter then you can’t truly understand or appreciate the complexities it takes on and the difficulty it takes to play it, especially for a person whom experiences are not that. But somehow Michael B. Jordan did it. He perfectly captured the intricacies of a boy trying to figure out what it means to become a man, without ever having a man to show you and all that entails. In him you see the search for identity, the fear of abandonment, the need for love, but the feeling that he’s unworthy, coupled with the idea that no one will give it to him. You see the vulnerability and hope he takes into every relationship he develops trying to use the people to put the pieces of his broken heart from childhood dealing with our broken prison system, which he would never admit to, back together. We see him constantly fighting for attention, and acceptance but dealing with rejection. Boxing in the ring must come easy because he takes those blows every day right on the chin. Imagine how hard it was to humble yourself in such a special way to go and ask another man to train you and be there for you and be completely vulnerable to ask another man for something, as Jordan did Wood Harris’s character, and essentially be told no, and that he wasn’t worth it.
Probably the most heartbreakingly true element to the performance is the rejected need to be accepted and have someone to lean on like a father. This comes true in the immediate term of endearment he places on Sylvester Stallone’s character of “Unc”. He wants him to be like his uncle even though he is not, and has done nothing to earn that place in his heart. But there is such a huge hole there that he needs to fill it. Jordan plays it like he’s thinking if he starts calling him Unc then he’ll start acting like one and he will finally have someone in his corner, literally and figuratively. The subtext of the line is please be there for me I need you, even though the constant dichotomy of the character tries to show he doesn’t need anybody. Jordan embodies that perfect in the role of Adonis. I would argue his role was more complex than that of Leonardo DiCaprio’s in The Revenant.
I know the Hollywood thing to do is for this character to have this moment where it all comes to a head and he is so overwhelmed with emotion he breaks. The audience has seen him vulnerable, they have seen the players in the world around him chip away at his armor exposing his heart and the rewarding thing for the audience would be to see the weight of all of that break him down in a big emotional crying scene. Sorry to tell you but that’s not what would happen to this boy. He wouldn’t break that way. That’s not how black men of that elk break. Not saying they shouldn’t or can’t, but in being true to the character, that usually doesn’t happen. It seems with the audience not getting that moment they hoped for and have invested time into the film for, the knee jerk reaction is blame Jordan, but blame your expectations. Blame your lack of understanding for who this kid really is. Blame Hollywood for constantly giving you these narratives that have to happen “this” way. But don’t blame Jordan. As a person who has been sitting in the shoes emotionally of Adonis Creed, Jordan captured my story, my pain, my joy, my inner-fight, and the way I express it all perfectly. We dismiss what we don’t understand.
Sometimes it seems like people take the strength of blackness, of people of color, for granted. We can clearly see the struggle and how difficult it is to be a student push the way we saw in “Whiplash” or a person becoming another the way Tom Hardy did in “The Revenant”. But what we don’t understand is how hard and how difficult it is to wake up every day hating yourself, not knowing yourself, undiagnosed mental illness, struggling with PTSD twice the times of that of a solider from Afghanistan, living in an area similar to a war zone, ON TOP OF poverty, horrible education, the prison system, no health care, poor dieting, broken family, etc. etc. etc. But most people in this country do it every day, and we see people make it out, and we take for granted how difficult that actually is. The strength of blackness worked against Michael B. Jordan in this role. People took for granted how difficult it is to endure the things that character has and still be a productive human being, because we know millions do it every day, but we don’t really see them. It takes a longer look into that person to see how many demons they are fighting just to walk into the room. Don’t take it for granted. Respect it. Appreciate it. Because that story and that character is just as valid as all the others.