Creed is the seventh movie in the Rocky franchise (now apparently called the ‘Rocky legacy’), but it is by no means a cash-in. This is a strong film with a script, acting and cinematography that hit all the right marks, standing tall on its own merits rather than merely trading on the Rocky name.
Creed stars Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Fruitvale Station) as Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of Rocky Balboa’s former rival and friend Apollo Creed. Adonis (‘Don’) is on a quest to prove his worth as a boxer and as a man worthy of taking the family name.
The film starts off in a juvenile detention centre where Don gets in a fight with an older boy and wins. With his biological mother dead, Adonis is surprised to be visited by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) who has come to adopt him. The film then skips forward to Adonis in his twenties, in a white-collar job but yearning to become a boxer like his father. He’s met by heavy resistance from Mary Anne and the boxing club owners in his resident Los Angeles, who all refuse to train him because his “daddy died in the ring.” This leads him to Philadelphia, the home of Rocky Balboa, and after continuous pestering he convinces Rocky to start training him.
The film follows much the same beats as the original Rocky, complete with an unexpected challenge from the number one boxer. That does leave some of the film’s surprises a little lost, but the performances and script really give the film its own identity. Don is a very complicated character and Michael B. Jordan is the perfect person to play him. His girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), is also fleshed out with her own arc, and is definitely more than just a cliché love interest for Don.
Likewise Sylvester Stallone gives a great performance in the role that launched his career. Moving from boxer to mentor, Rocky gives Don the training and father figure he needs, with Don calling him ‘Unc’ for most of the film. It would have been easy to shoe-horn Rocky in with a weak script for the sake of selling tickets, but Stallone was clear before filming that he wouldn’t return unless the script was good because the previous movie Balboa gave closure to the character. Thankfully, Rocky as an older man provides a new view to an old fighter who has lost a lot over the years – his wife Adrian, his friend Paulie and his son have all gone and left him behind. When Don enters the two build a friendship and their on-screen chemistry is very natural.
Of course Rocky has always been a boxing franchise and this is no exception. The cinematography is exquisite and personal, bringing you closer to the action than ever before. Long, uninterrupted shots in the heavily choreographed fights are an impressive achievement, bringing you into the ring as it all happens. Unfortunately challenger “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (former three-time ABA Heavyweight Champion Anthony Bellow) isn’t explored in as much as depth as he deserves.
Unlike other films reaching the seventh instalments of their franchises, Creed doesn’t feel like it’s running out of ideas and really does its best to be a good film on all fronts. Fans of the franchise can rejoice at the spectacular addition to the franchise, while new fans can enjoy this as a stand-alone story of Adonis Creed, regardless of their Rocky knowledge.
Creed doesn’t just look like a Rocky film, it has the heart of one too, and that counts for a lot.
Words by Sunny Ramgolam