Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Premise: A spinoff of the Rocky series. Following the events of 2006’s Rocky Balboa, up and coming fighter Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who is the son of the late Apollo Creed, recruits Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to be his trainer.
What Works: Sylvester Stallone appeared to have put his signature character to rest with 2006’s Rocky Balboa. That movie gave the Italian Stallion one last shot at pugilistic glory and it sent off the character in a very satisfying fashion. Creed sees Stallone return to the character that made him a star but in this movie he’s in a supporting role. That’s indicative of the reason this movie exists; Stallone not only starred in the Rocky films but he also directed four installments and wrote all six of them. Creed is a deliberate attempt to pass the reigns of the franchise to a new set of filmmakers and the series has been put in good hands. Director and writer Ryan Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington do an excellent job paying homage to the legacy of the Rocky series while making their own film. In movies of this sort it is important to maintain some continuity with the original movie in terms of story and character but also style. Part of what worked for the original Rocky was its grit and low budget authenticity. Creed is slicker than the 1976 film but it still has an authentic feel for its characters, the setting, and the boxing action. The fight sequences of Creed are outstanding and one of the best examples of how this movie updates the material for a contemporary audience and allows for the creative vision of a new filmmaker. The boxing action of Creed showcases director Ryan Coogler’s visual style with fights that are ferocious and realistic. The standout set piece occurs in the middle of the picture. It’s executed all in one shot and puts the viewer in the fury and danger of the boxing ring. It is unlike anything seen in the Rocky series before and it establishes a tone and style that distinguishes this movie. At the points in which the filmmakers do revisit the signature visuals of the Rocky series, they do so with fresh eyes and bridge the old film with the new one. Creed is led by Michael B. Jordan in the title role and Jordan does a great job. This is a boxing picture and so it’s very physical but like the best sports movies there is a lot going on underneath the surface; the fights have a deeper meaning for the character and Jordan is as good in the dramatic moments as he is in the physical sequences. The other notable performance of Creed comes from Sylvester Stallone. Throughout his career, Stallone has not been renowned for his acting and he is a limited performer but Stallone’s turns as Rocky Balboa have always been special. In Creed Stallone does some of the best and subtlest work of his career.
What Doesn’t: One of the most popular trends in Hollywood at the moment is the so-called soft reboot which resets a movie franchise while leaving some or all of the original story continuity intact. Creed is another soft reboot and the new film adheres to the formula that Sylvester Stallone relied upon throughout the Rocky series. One key difference between Rocky and Creed is the love story; in the original film the relationship between Rocky and Adrian was the centerpiece of the movie. Rocky was a love story disguised as a boxing movie but over the course of the series those priorities flipped. In Creed the love story remains in the background. Adonis begins a romance with a musician played by Tessa Thompson. Their relationship is sweet and convincing but the filmmakers don’t get quite the same impact out of it that made the ending of Rocky and Rocky Balboa so satisfying. Also, given the ending of Rocky Balboa and how important family was to his character, it is odd that Rocky’s son doesn’t play a role in this story.
DVD extras: Featurettes and deleted scenes.
Bottom Line: Creed will satisfy fans of the original Rocky series as well as newcomers. It is an excellent appendage to the Rocky legacy and but perhaps more importantly Creed is a terrific film in its own right.
Episode: #571 (November 29, 2015); revised #623 (November 27, 2016)