For almost 40 years now, Rocky Balboa has spanned a total of six films. Each brings newer foes for him to overcome both physically and mentally for not only those that he loves, but also himself. The first film back in 1976 is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the classic underdog story with unforgettable characters and a timeless story where it can be told for generations to come.
Ever since, the rest of his films have debatably failed to live up to its predecessor by offering inferior stories and elements that tend to rehash in each newer movie. It’s been 39 years since the original and now Creed steps up as the newest installment of the series. Is this one just another entry for the franchise to stack upon its “disappointing” predecessors, or does this finally do enough things right to bring new light into the saga?
Creed centers around Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), a young light heavyweight boxer who's the son of world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, who died back in Rocky IV in a boxing match before his son was born. Apollo’s wife, Mary Anne (not Adonis’ mother), takes up Adonis from juvenile prison where he is raised under her roof. Wanting to pursue his boxing career, he leaves his life in Los Angeles and heads to Philadelphia, where he finds Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in hopes he can be trained by him. While hesitant at first, Rocky eventually agrees to train Johnson.
After fighting a local in town, news spreads fast that Apollo Creed has a son, where eventually an agent calls Rocky in request of Johnson fighting world light heavyweight champion, Ricky Conlon (Tony Bellew). Adonis eventually agrees, after being skeptical of being forced to change his name for the match to “Creed” instead of Johnson. Who will win? The world champion, or son of former world champion?
The funny thing about the Rocky films is that a lot of them share the same kind of formula for their stories, which should make them rather dull and repetitive to many, but audiences always come back to them regardless. Most of them consist of Rocky getting an opportunity to take on a new foe, he is very hesitant to go back into the ring and ultimately gets the motivation to fight with the help of his friends and family, and Creed is no exception to the formula. It does many of its elements from the original Rocky film such as Adonis having the chance to make something out of himself, formulating a romance with someone, and the personal struggle within himself. It’s almost completely identical, so why does it work?
The biggest element that really makes this film work is its characters and performances, which has always been the greatest aspect of all the Rocky films. All of the characters, new and old, offer enough substance to make this entry feel like a true continuation of the Rocky franchise while also being able to do its own thing. The relationship between Rocky and Adonis is the best part of the movie by having each other being an important figure for one another. Both have nothing much in life but eventually see it in each other that fill in what they don’t have. This all comes from great performances from Jordan and Stallone.
Rocky Balboa is one of the most well known film characters ever, and it all goes back to the man who created as well as wrote the character, Sylvester Stallone. This is and always will be his signature role in film, and this is his best performance in years. He is able to show the age and emptiness Rocky has that’s been building up from each newer installment. He’s lost a lot of his loved ones and needs someone to give him more meaning in life.
Jordan does an amazing job as Adonis Johnson by showing the true turmoil behind the character as well as the physicality. He is haunted by the “Creed” name and wants to make something of himself on his own without any of the fame from his father, and Jordan is able to really give a sense of realism so that the film viewers will be able to relate to the character. He is definitely earning the roles for him in films like this and Fruitvale Station to go into a very successful acting career.
The directing is also done very well. The way the whole movie is shot, especially during the big boxing match in the middle that looks like it’s taken all in one shot, looks great.
It is also important that they keep the central focus on Adonis and not Rocky. It would have been so easy to make this all about him again, especially since it is Rocky’s film series, but they made him a strong supporting character that completely works. He is what Mickey was to him in the older films as the old, yet wise trainer. Nothing with the character feels forced and the direction overall did an excellent job on how big of a role to give Rocky.
It’s quite honestly very difficult to find positives and negatives with the film. In a way, this is somewhat of a reimagining or remake of the original Rocky movie back in the 70’s for the newer generation to grow up with while also paying homage to the original source material. What made the first one so great, they basically do here and gets the same effect as well. So in a way, that could be an issue for people going into Creed thinking that they are going to get a brand new take on the series. But it is a positive that you do not have to see any of the Rocky films to know the story here, it’s just a much better experience for the Rocky fans.
Overall, Creed does everything that the original film did with about the same impact which leads to an overall very enjoyable experience. While it may not be original in terms of story and its formula, the characters, actors, and direction is too good to not acknowledge. This isn’t as strong as the first two Rocky films, but is definitely the best one since. For a film series that is running on seven entries now, Creed shows that it still has a bit of fight left.