The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster
Rated: PG-13 (violence, language and some sensuality)
By Matt Greene
Creed, like each of its six predecessors, is ostensibly a boxing film, and quite a good one. There are two featured fights: the first is intense and natural, punctuated by an artfully effective long take; the second is pure edge-of-your-seat action that, as clichéd as it sounds, really pumps you up. Thankfully, however, relative-newcomer Coogler recognizes what makes these movies great: not the boxing or even the plot, but the people. Creed is by no means super-original, but its big-hearted script and punchy performances soar it towards the top of the Balboa heap.
Part continuation, part spin-off of the Italian Stallion saga, we meet Adonis, the son of Rocky’s one-time opponent / friend Apollo Creed, as he makes waves in the boxing community under the training of Balboa. Jordan, playing Creed, continues his assent to stardom, showing his hard-work and commitment in every frame. However, he still pales next to the Rocky character, one of the most lovable in all Hollywood cinema. Stallone wears Balboa like a wonderfully tailored old suit, playing the ever-deteriorating champ who, once the icon of running up flights of stairs, now struggles to get up a slight hill. Natural, funny, and ever-affable, Stallone puts himself deep in Oscar conversation, beautifully underlining his character’s optimistic exterior with soulful heartbreak from years of loss.
This unrelenting passing of time is highlighted in an early line of the film: “Time beat him. Time beats everybody; it’s undefeated.” But while this pessimistic realism may be the message, it is by no means the attitude; Creed is still very much a “Rocky” film at its core: unabashedly earnest and crowd-pleasing.
4 out of 5 Stars
By Cole Schneider
Few films are more ingrained in the audiences of today’s American cinemas than 1976’s Oscar winner, “Rocky”. That film combined gritty realism with elements borrowed from a typical sports drama. That realism did a great job of undercutting the clichéd dramatics of sports films. Its atypical ending and rich characters furthered the insistence on realism over contrived drama.
The sequels have strayed from the original’s balance relying more on formulaic stories. “Creed” certainly doesn’t reach the heights of “Rocky”, but it does begin to restore that balance. “Creed” follows Adonis Johnson, the son of Rocky’s original nemesis Apollo Creed, as he battles against his father’s legacy. Sylvester Stallone returns as Rocky, this time as Johnson’s trainer and friend, but it’s Michael B. Jordan as Johnson that carries the weight of the film. The film begins with him as a troubled child, moving quickly into his time in the corporate world, and then as an aspiring boxer moved to Philadelphia to find the man who beat his dad years ago.
The contrivances of the character (versus the naturalism of Rocky in his first film) and the conveniences of the story, as well as a lack of supporting players with the level of intrigue found in Pauley, Adrian, Mickey, or Apollo insulate it from the return to gritty realism that would mark a true comeback, but it’s certainly closer to the original recipe than the other sequels. Director Ryan Coogler’s camera movements and patterns are exquisite, creating a keen visual rhythm for the film, yet the film is always kept at a greater distance than intended because the corniness inherent in the Rocky franchise isn’t fully complemented by a more willingly real narrative.
3 out of 5 Stars