Movie Review: A (3 ½ stars)
WARNER BROS. PICTURES, NEW LINE CINEMA, AND MGM
Sylvester Stallone (Rambo franchise, The Expendables trilogy, Ratchet & Clank) returns as the Italian Stallion in the seventh installment of the Rocky franchise, Creed, a spin-off of the franchise as well as the first film in the Rocky series since 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Almost ten years since the last Rocky movie, when I first heard about this movie after viewing the trailer, I raised my eyebrow and said “We are so late in the game on this, Stallone’s too old for this and the film itself seems like a shameful attempt to cash in on the classic franchise!” That’s what I thought at first because it would be very difficult to top the first Rocky movie, the first film is an iconic classic, every time I watch it I want to jog in place with Rocky when he’s running through Philadelphia and hum his trademark theme song when he fights Apollo Creed, cheer when he wins the fight in the end, and of course laugh my ass off when the robot from Rocky IV shows up (seriously, what did that thing have to do with Rocky?).
So I was pretty skeptical with the release of Creed, but after reading the reviews and seeing the movie in theaters, I am happy to report that the movie is very well done. While it’s not a direct Rocky sequel, it has many of its trademarks from running through Philadelphia to climbing up the steps and a gripping fight, and of course the theme song.
It works both as a Rocky installment as well as a standalone boxing drama, despite the fact Stallone doesn’t do much fighting in this one, but Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, The Boondocks, Fantastic Four) is a damn fine substitution and he can kick just as much ass as Stallone. Stallone however feels more like a Merlin or Mr. Miyagi type of character here, you know the coach or the trainer, which is understandable because Stallone has gotten quite old since Rocky Balboa and Rocky is supposedly retired in this movie.
Our story begins with Adonis Johnson (Jordan), a young African-American man who ever since he was a boy has had a rough time in life, constant fighting, being a juvenile delinquent, living in a foster home, you name it. Apparently he never got the chance to know his father, Rocky’s first opponent, Apollo Creed, who passed away before he was born, but there’s no denying that his boxing power flows in Adonis’ blood.
Adonis travels to Philadelphia where he meets their town hero, the Italian Stallion himself, Rocky Balboa (Stallone) who is now retired from boxing. Upon realizing that Adonis is the son of Apollo Creed, he decides to help him train to become a great heavyweight boxer just like his father once was.
However, the competition is very tough in the ring this time, Adonis will be facing off against British heavyweight fighter and title holder, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Professional Boxer, Tony Bellew), Rocky and Adonis are going to have to train long and hard in order to beat Conlan in the ring and make everyone remember the legacy of Apollo Creed.
Overall, Creed is a welcoming return for the Rocky film franchise and it’s quite impressive that the franchise is able to last this long for several years and still stay fresh, but then again, look at 007 and Star Wars. The film balances character development, emotional drama, and boxing action quite nicely, thanks to the strong chemistry between Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone and the film’s ability to stand on its own will still staying true to the original Rocky films’ roots.
One very minor issue I have with the movie is that you don’t hear much of the Rocky theme song this time around, that’s pretty much a staple of the Rocky franchise and it helps indicate that what you’re watching is a Rocky movie. But fortunately it does show up in the movie at all, so problem solved.
It’s pretty hard to top the first Rocky movie, since it’s a cinema classic as well as being very iconic, but this does come very close. It’s certainly closer to a Rocky movie than Rocky IV, you know, because of the random robot (seriously, was that just a predecessor to Real Steel?).
If you’re a fan of the Rocky franchise or boxing sports dramas in general, you’ll probably enjoy Creed, it doesn’t rehash the original Rocky movies, but it continues the legend and brings something new to the ring.