Directed and written by Ryan Coogler, starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson.
“Creed is the latest installment into the Rocky franchise and follows Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of the late world famous boxer Apollo Creed. With the help of his father’s friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis will try to overcome the legacy that his father has left behind and make it in the boxing world.”
Rocky is arguably the world’s most famous sports film franchise ever, so when Creed was announced there was apprehension. Could this film, not helmed by Stallone and not starring Stallone as the lead actually succeed? The short answer to this question is, “hell yes”. Creed perfectly blends the best of the old Rocky films with the marvels of modern filmmaking and coupled with incredible leads makes for the best Rocky film since the first.
Creed doesn’t exist without Ryan Coogler. This up and coming director not only pitched the idea of this film to Stallone, but then wrote it as well. Coming off of the controversial and critically lauded Fruitvale Station, Coogler’s first major Hollywood film is a massive success. It is so hard to make a boxing movie these days without being compared to Rocky, but Coogler manages through his script and direction style to incorporate classic Rocky nuances in his film without making them overly cheesy. Although at times it can be a little over the top (i.e. the end of the training montage, the pausing of the film to show stats of the fighters), Coogler has made a statement to the industry, saying that he’s ready for big films and he’s here to stay.
No sports film is any good without a charismatic and likeable lead actor and Michael B. Jordan perfectly fits this bill as Adonis Johnson. Jordan has previously worked with Coogler in Fruitvale Station and has proven again that these two are a power duo in the film industry. Not only does he work hard to physically transform in this film, Jordan also portrays a character with many emotional layers. Adonis is a character that is struggling to escape the long shadow cast by his father while also trying to live up to the legacy that he has left behind. There is one particular scene that really highlights just how good Johnson is, when Adonis finally cracks and reveals what’s going on in his head, and is incredibly powerful.
Creed not only showcases one of the best newcomers to the industry, but also revitalized Sylvester Stallone. Not since the last Rocky film in 2006, have we seen Stallone this good; in fact he may even be Oscar worthy good. Stallone masterfully takes Rocky’s quirks that we grew to love in the first films and combines them with a sense of realism that we haven’t seen from the character before. For the first time, Rocky is weak and alone, and really needs someone like Adonis at this time of his life. The relationship that develops between them is heartwarming and reminiscent of the one between him and Apollo and him and Mick. His performance in Creed is quite possibly the greatest we’ve ever seen from Stallone and makes me excited for future dramatic roles that he could land.
Also worth mentioning is Creed’s fighting scenes and the camerawork that went along with it. There is one spectacular fight that is made to look like one complete take, shown from the perspective of the fighter and complete with the managers yelling from the sides of the ring. The fight cinematography and choreography are outstanding, adding yet another sense of realism and modernism to this film. Finally, the little throwbacks and Easter eggs thrown into the film, such as the subtle use of the Rocky theme in the score (people cheered at my screening and I unshamefully teared up) and the final fight are perfectly executed, not hindering the film by being too obvious, but also elevating it to the next level and ensuring that people know the film is in the Rocky universe.
Creed is by far one of the best Rocky films and a worthy sequel/spinoff/reboot to the Rocky franchise. Led by a director that actually cares about the franchise, spectacular lead actors and incredible camerawork, Creed is one of the best films of the year.