Adonis Creed, the son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed seeks out training from his father's old friend, Rocky Balboa, with the hope that he can start his own legacy and no longer live in the shadow of his deceased father.
Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) breathes some well needed life into a dying franchise. Rocky was seemingly over, but by turning the focus onto a different and much younger character who's just getting into fighting, it never feels stale. Creed is formulaic, there are a lot of parallels here with the first Rocky but it never feels like a rip off or a remake, it feels fresh and bracingly up to date. Coogler brings the same grit and urban edge to Creed that he brought to Fruitvale Station, but with Creed he's much more able to articulate some humor, some lighter moments but also some serious emotion.
Sylvester Stallone reprises his role yet again as Rocky Balboa, the most iconic character of his career and without a doubt this is the finest performance that Stallone has ever given. Creed gives an entirely new level to Rocky, with his wife and best friend passed away, Rocky doesn't have much left in this world to keep fighting for, that is until the son of his old rival turned friend, Apollo Creed, turns up at his doorstep asking to be trained in the ring. Stallone is absolutely phenomenal in the film and he gives a performance that I never knew he had the capability to pull off. But....this isn't Rocky's movie, this is a passing of the torch onto Adonis Creed, or Donny Johnson as he goes due to not wanting to be recognized as a Creed. Michael B Jordan (Fruitvale Station) who's proven himself to be a serious young talent gives a truly great performance. Donny doesn't want to live under his father's shadow, he wants to create his own legacy, and it's this story paired with the incredible relationship that forms between Donny and Rocky that makes Creed so irresistibly engrossing and entertaining. Tessa Thompson who plays Donny's love interest is also fantastic in her supporting role.
I only have two small gripes with the film. Every time a new fighter was introduced, a title card displaying their name and ratio of wins to losses would pop up on screen and every time it happened I was taken right out of the film, it doesn't happen too often but when it did happen it felt unnecessary. My second and largest problem with the film is the main antagonist, we don't have an Apollo Creed or an Ivan Drago in this film for Donny to go up against because it's not so much about that instead it's about Donny and Rocky's relationship, but the boxer who Donny does have to face in the finale was terrible. He's a real boxer from Liverpool, England and I was left wondering why they couldn't get a trained actor to fill that role because he was honestly quite distracting because of how excellent all the other performances are.
Creed is not a film you want to miss out on, even if you've not seen the previous Rocky films. I saw this with a group of people, not all of which had seen Rocky before and all of them thoroughly enjoyed the film. If you've already got an interest in the series then of course it might just hit you that much more, it certainly got me on an emotional and nostalgic level. Creed will often tug at your heartstrings, whether it be because of nostalgia or just a very emotional moment in the story, I found that all of these moments had weight to them, they left an impact. They all worked so well because the characters involved in the scenes are so well realized and well performed by the actors and that's a big credit to Ryan Coogler who is going to be a megastar director in the next few years, especially now he's got Black Panther for Marvel coming up. Unfortunately it doesn't look as though Coogler will be returning for Creed 2 which is a big shame, but he is writing the script and Creed was his original idea, he's the one who persuaded Stallone to join the project and to come back as Rocky.
Going back to my comment on nostalgia earlier on, it's really all about the music. The original score composed for the film is unbelievable, it's loud and bombastic and never afraid to go for it. It's a really up-to-date score that perfectly integrates the themes and notes from the original Rocky.
What got me so invested in Creed wasn't the boxing, no matter how well shot and directed those scenes were. It was the bond between Rocky and Donny, the fact that these two characters need each other and they never knew it. Donny needs a father figure, he needs a positive male role model to look up to because he grew up without a father, Apollo did of course die in the ring. And Rocky needs family, he needs someone there to fight for, because he points out in the film that if anything happens to himself, he's not going to fix it, what happens will happen and he's happy for his time to come because everything good in his life has moved on. There's a genuine progression in each of these characters and their arcs are great to see flesh out.
This is a phenomenal film, it's definitely up there with the original Rocky which is an all time classic. Coogler directs the hell out of the film, and Michael B Jordan and Sylvester Stallone deliver two unforgettable performances. Please go out and see Creed as soon as you can, you won't regret it.
What did you think of Creed? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JamesPorter97