Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad
When Sylvester Stallone reprised his award winning, iconic role as Rocky Balboa in 2006, that film was supposed to be the end of the saga that began in 1976. “Creed” is the first film to feature Rocky not written by Stallone, and that might be a good thing. The original film won best picture, but sequels 2 – 6 were plagued by Razzie awards for its performances. Ryan Coogler’s follow up to critical sensation “Fruitvale Station” (also starring Jordan) is an imaginative piece of script work which Rocky fans should find wholly satisfying. On its own “Creed” doesn’t manage more than just an adequate boxing drama. It never reaches the level of recent Oscar nominated boxing films “Million Dollar Baby”, “The Fighter” or “Warrior”.
Essentially orphaned as a child, Adonis Johnson (Jordan) was adopted by his father Apollo Creed’s wife Mary Anne (Rashad). He was given a comfortable life, education and a loving home in Los Angeles, but fighting was always in his blood. He leaves California for Philly, seeking out Rocky Balboa (Stallone) as a trainer. The young fighter figures the boxing legend owes him at least that much. Desperate to get fights on his own merit and ability, when the sporting world learns of Adonis heritage, the game changes and he must decide between accepting the past or changing the future. He has help with next door neighbor Bianca (Thompson), who is a local music sensation and an inspiration to his character. Adonis finds the father figure he never had, while Rocky is given the opportunity to burry some of his guilt.
Stallone better than usual, playing an ailing Rocky with sensitivity and purpose.
Coogler’s “Creed” might take offense to anyone calling this a Rocky movie, because time and time again we are inundated with footage, photos and memories of Apollo to ensure this is not just another excuse to regurgitate the saga. There are virtually no other characters from previous sequels in “Creed” and while the famous red, white and blue shorts and the iconic music are used, this film wants to stand on its own. Jordan continues to prove himself as a formidable actor, hopefully this performance will help erase his affiliation with embarrassing superhero flop “Fantastic Four” this past summer. “Creed” isn’t award worthy material like “Fruitvale Station”, however if the supporting actor race doesn’t get any stronger, a powerful Thanksgiving box office turnout for this film could make way for Stallone to snag a nomination. He is better than usual, playing an ailing Rocky with sensitivity and purpose.
Fans familiar with the Rocky saga will find this spinoff makes forgotten sequels feel less disappointing. “Creed” the film tries to do the same thing Adonis attempts, making it on its own merit, but just as he learns, without the association, no one cares. Everything about this film is traditional, from the training, to the steaks even the big fight. “Creed” and Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Southpaw” understand the boxing film genre, but lack a unique hook that make their films stand above others. It’s hard to contain the laughter when Adonis trots downstairs in the middle of the night to inform his neighbor to shut off her music, of course it’s a beautiful woman, his age, and the script might as well have said “enter love interest”. Creed is formulaic and that prevents it from being truly great, despite Coogler finding a way to make the Rocky saga relevant again.
As a boxing film it’s forgettable, as a Rocky film it’s the second best in the saga.