Creed (2016) (133 mins)
Director – Ryan Coogler
Starring – Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Premise – The son of Apollo Creed, Adonis, tries to make his legacy in the shadow of his father with the help of Rocky Balboa, his father’s toughest opponent.
If you thought 2016s Creed was a film regarding faith amongst a religious community, you would be mistaken because Creed is the long-awaited new-born cousin of the highly successful Rocky franchise… but guess what? Rocky is back, and this time as the trainer! Any fans of the franchise will automatically fall in love with this tour-de-force film that reinvigorates the rundown underdog recipe, and produces a boxing film that is able to rival the original Rocky for pure energy and excitement, but although it cannot hold the title of originality, it damn sure brings the past to the present with a nostalgic dose of boxing spectacle. Creed revolves around the son of Apollo Creed, the greatest and most popular fighter in the Rocky universe, bar Rocky of course. Going by the name of Adonis Johnson, he quits his job and life of inherited luxury to make his own legacy as a boxer, and in doing so teams up with his father’s best friend and enemy Rocky Balboa to help him create his own path free from the weight of his father’s name.
Creed is pretty engaging stuff thanks to its pure storyline and effective use of its underdog tag. Creed copies the first Rocky a lot and so it is truly successful because of it, but that does not mean Adonis isn’t given a life of his own, he definitely is and its close resemblance to the past is unavoidable with a story like this, it just has to make sure Adonis remains the star of the film. But still, what to do with Rocky seeing as he has always been the main man of the series? Rocky has been the character that has fought in each of the films, been in the ring in way or another, but here he cannot physically fight and psychologically overcome the obstacles he faces, therefore knowing Rocky is number one, having him fight for his life with his ill health shows the filmmakers’ understanding of the franchise’s history, and how integral Rocky is to the audience’s satisfaction. Ryan Coogler’s remarkable handling of Creed makes him a talented prospect to watch out for because it is a film with genuine purpose that its passion for the subject is able to move mountains and produce a film of many dimensions. Creed has humour, stirring emotion, compelling drama about age, personal demons and psychological possibilities, and also a sporting story able to conjure the magic of boxing at its most excitingly vicious.
In terms of its boxing ability, Creed creates an underdog story perhaps a little more believable than Rocky did in the first place, with the fights progressing in status until the show stopping climax. The fights aren’t simply peppered around Creed to uphold its choice of subject matter, but instead they are used to reveal who Adonis is, his ambition and how far he has come from the brawling boxing of Tijuana. Interestingly, Creed chooses to visibly show all of Adonis’ boxing opponents’ records through freeze-frame, upping the competitive ante, and the underdog status of Adonis who hasn’t even received a single fight to his name, but it is the name that counts! Creed shines brightly during its climactic fight that takes place at none other than Everton’s Goodison Park, the British home of Adonis’ opponent, Ricky Conlan. The boxing fights are realistic in vigour and spirit, resembling closely the original Rocky, which also seems fair to say of the over the top facial and corporeal damage they receive. The boxing is made to feel super immersive, wearing us down with the characters and embedding us within the electric atmosphere that leaves you as pumped as the fighters.
Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed, the talented, unproven light heavyweight boxer. Adonis is a worthwhile creation but he lacks the raw background that makes his rise all the more special. Rocky lived in a dump and had no prospects, but for Adonis it is the opposite and so the pretty sight doesn’t help his cause. Jordan however delivers a compelling performance where both his physical strength and mental determination show just how hard he worked for the part. For Sylvester Stallone’s Balboa, it is weird having the character that has made this franchise what it is star in a supporting role, but at least he is standing close to the ropes, albeit on the wrong side. Stallone must have been apprehensive of taking on Rocky once again, especially after slapping audiences in the face by fighting at a peachy age and still not getting knocked out in Rocky Balboa, but seeing as Rocky fights figuratively and develops for once, why not take the role, especially when he has a great chance to win awards this coming season. A special mention has to go to Tony Bellew, AKA Ricky Conlan, Adonis’ opponent. Bellew is an actual boxer and so his full-on performance wasn’t supposed to be convincing. Yes, boxers are actors to an extent, but to do this for a film is a whole different territory Bellew immaculately engages with.
Creed’s greatest asset is its factual history, which is used fantastically to up the atmosphere. The talk of Adonis’ lineage, the appearance of Rocky Balboa, the Philadelphia setting and the classic use of boxing make Creed nostalgically gratifying. Understanding the weight of the bloodlines and the significance of Adonis and Rocky’s union elevates Creed’s overall impact. Ludwig Göransson creates a new theme song for Adonis’ physical conquests, which electrifies in a way where it could have been special 40 years ago, but not today, which is evident when Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” comes along and has you raving to it! Creed is effectively a smaller version of Star Wars in terms of luring new and old audiences in with the gravitas of its history. It uses the past so efficiently that everyone will enjoy what Creed has to offer, but it doesn’t devour its roots so much that it cannot offer freshness; Creed revamps the franchise by taking its protagonists in new directions Rocky wasn’t able to do so. Fists clenched that the eight round will be the knockout of the franchise!
Creed recommences the Rocky “underdog” tradition and surprisingly finds new life in the formula, proving that the franchise is not down and out as it ends its seventh round.