Many would argue that no one was looking forward to the release of Creed more than the film’s centerpiece actor, Michael B. Jordan. You see, Jordan played the role of Johnny Storm in Twentieth Century Fox’s reimagination of Fantastic Four which was released this past summer. If you didn’t see the “Marvel-less” reboot you’re not alone as it’ll likely go down as one of the biggest disappointments financially and in terms of quality in all of 2015. Jump forward a few months and Jordan is back and primed to take a jab at another legacy. The surprising Rocky franchise appealed to a massively wide range of fans over its 30 year run. It should come as little surprise that the successful boxing opera wouldn’t stay dormant for long. Now comes the next chapter built for an entirely new generation. Creed looks to take what’s old and make it new again.
A kid who has been in and out of trouble during his youth finally gets some structure in his life when taken in by a stranger to him at the time. This stranger is Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), who is the widow of the great Apollo Creed, and she wants to take in this wayward child in order to give him a better life. Why? He happens to be the son of her late husband, conceived out of wedlock, but still a part of the man she loved more than life itself. Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has grown into a fine young man and yet there’s a part of him that’s still drawn to fight. After all it’s in his blood. He eventually gives into his bloodlust and seeks out the one person who he believes can help hone his skills. That beacon of hope is none other than Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky eventually comes to terms with the fact that his best friend had a secret son. Eventually Rocky agrees to help Adonis become a better boxer, and a better man. In return Rocky finds a new purpose in life.
The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is clearly present with what transpires in Creed. Fans of the previous movies will have a very familiar feeling while experiencing this latest chapter. Director/writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) pays homage to the original movies in every facet imaginable. Some may be critical of the movie and accuse Coogler of lacking imagination but it’s pretty evident that what is done is done out of respect and admiration. There are countless nods to the past throughout which gives a nostalgic warm feeling to it.
Sylvester Stallone’s age has finally caught up to him…well at to his character in Creed. Rocky Balboa is looking rough and has to deal with some real life issues that no one is immune to. His character is very age appropriate at this point. Adonis has issues of his own to deal with as well. He’s learning to accept help from others since he’s accustomed to being a lone wolf. By letting others into his life he slowly realizes what he’s been missing. Michael B. Jordan is allowed to show his acting range as his character is dealing with challenges on several levels. Then of course there’s the love interest. Bianca (Tessa Thompson) lives in the same building as Adonis and they soon become involved. As with everyone else, she also has her own struggles that she’s dealing with as well.
One area of major improvement is in the boxing choreography. It’s often difficult to go back and watch older movies because effects have changed so much over a relatively short period of time. Fights may have seemed very believable in their day, but in the here and now..not so much. It’s almost comical when you see Rocky landing a flurry of punches in one of the previous movies because his gloves are like 8 inches away from his opponents faces. And yet we ate it up at the time. That’s what being caught up in the moment will do. It forces you to look past the imperfections because you’re wanting so badly to get to a positive outcome. Once you’ve seen the movies a few times (or in my case a few dozen times) you start to nitpick and notice all of the flaws, diminishing the praise you once had. Creed on the other hand should stand up to the test of time for a while with its fight scenes. They were very impressive and quite detailed. There are a couple of sequences that appear to be filmed in one long continuous shot. Those in particular are quite impressive.
Boxing slappies such as myself will really get a kick out of Creed as it keeps one foot in the past while being conscious of the present as well as the future. This is a great transitional move to allow a new, younger generation to step out of the shadow of the massive Rocky Balboa and onto the back of an up and coming fighter in Adonis Johnson/Creed. There is definitely potential for a sequel, although I doubt it’ll garner five sequels and span 30 years. Then again, no one thought that would happen with the previous films so never say never. Even if you’ve never seen a minute of one of the old Rocky movies, Creed is strong enough to stand on its own.