"Creed" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Rocky Balboa is one of the most famous and influential characters in film history. Not only did it make Sylvester Stallone a bonafide movie star, but it started a whole legacy and film franchise that has lasted for almost fifty years now. Hot off the success of his first film, "Fruitvale Station", director Ryan Coogler wanted to tackle a story in the Rocky franchise, this time focusing on the unknown son of boxing legend, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers in the original films). Bringing together Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in a film that elevates him to superstar status, this film perfectly blends the Rocky franchise into this fantastic, next-generation boxing film that has a lot of heart and a great story.
The movie opens in a juvenile hall, where a young boy is beating up another. We then find out the boy who was attacking the other prisoner is a young Adonis Creed, who is bouncing around foster cares after the death of his mother. He is visited by Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), who informs him that he is the bastard son of famous boxer Apollo Creed, and she wants to take him in to try and give him a fair fight at life. We then flash forward numerous years later, and Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is now gown and fighting in underground fights in Mexico. He is sort of living a double life, where he fights at night and works a very good office job in the day.
However, Adonis is sick of working a dead-end job where he isn't happy. Despite being promoted and having his own office at the company, he decides to quit and pursue boxing full-time, against his mother's wishes. This first part of the film really kind of shows the mindset of Adonis, and how he feels about his father's legacy looming over his head. Consider the scene where he goes to the gym his father used to train at. The coach won't let him into the ring due to the legacy he has to live up to; it seems like in a way, they don't want this young hotshot to come in and totally destroy the legacy his dad had created.
Because he can't really get anyone to give him a real shot, Adonis decides to move to Philadelphia to hunt down Rocky Balboa, who had a friendship and rivalry with his father. He finds him running a restaurant, putting his boxing days behind him. By telling him who he is and how much it means to him, Adonis convinces Rocky to come out of retirement and train him, hoping to start this new legacy for himself. While training, Adonis falls head over heels for Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who is a singer that suffers from progressive hearing loss. Now with all of these factors behind him, Adonis must make the decision to adopt the Creed name and continue on his father's legacy or to take the chance of crafting his own journey in the ring.
The best thing about this film is Stallone and Jordan's chemistry and performances. Stallone gets back into the role of Rocky, and shows the growth and pain behind his performance. A lot has happened through his life, including the deaths of almost everyone he cares about, and because of that, there is a rhyme and reason why Rocky does the things he does. Now, that all looks fine and dandy on paper, but it's really Stallone's performance that elevates this character beyond what it is. If Stallone didn't embody this character all of these years ago, I don't think I would be writing a review on a film like this.
At the same time, Jordan gives it his all in this role, and he crafts this new character that embodies the arrogance and cockiness of his character's father, but also the heart that Apollo had as well. You could totally see these two characters being father and son in real life, and that is a great quality to have in a character in the film. When put together, Rocky and Adonis really play well off each other. The two actors have great chemistry, and it seems like they are really good friends in real life. It's hard to find chemistry between two actors that work so well, especially in a relationship dynamic like this, but I think Jordan and Stallone do such a fantastic job.
Coogler does a terrific job directing a really well-written screenplay, which gives something for fans both young and old to enjoy. The movie moves at a really nice pace, and is able to pack so much in a two-hour film. It sets up all of these plot elements and storylines so perfectly that it not only lets the movie play out, but sets up numerous storylines for future films. At the same time, Coogler is able to add his own artistic direction behind this movie, including the growth of a character through poverty and crime to a world-famous boxer.
I would also say the fight scenes are very expertly choreographed, and really get into the nitty-gritty of the boxing matches. It elevates the film by putting the viewer right into the ring with the actors in the movie, and you honestly start to wonder if that last punch thrown actually connected with the other actor. Every fight scene present in this movie is very well done and contains perhaps some of the best shots in the entire franchise.
All in all, I think this is a perfect addition to the Rocky franchise, and elevates the series past what it already is. The story of Rocky is great and always will be, but I think Creed is able to put Balboa on the back burner for a bit and tell the story of another great fighter rising through the ranks. In a way, it's sort of a love letter to boxing films and the film series Stallone started so many years ago, and I think this franchise still has a lot left to go.