Creed is the most recent film in the Rocky series; unlike the previous six films this one is not focused on boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) but instead on Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his formal rival Apollo Creed. After being picked up from a group home by his father’s wife (Phylicia Rashad), and raised as her own son, Adonis takes up boxing in Mexico before seeking out Balboa to train him. Rocky ultimately agrees and the two embark on a journey of sorts, bonding together as Adonis works his way toward the inevitable big fight at the end.
What worked for me
The story was the most realistic of all the Rocky films to me. There was no over the top premise, just a guy wanting to learn about himself by following in his father’s footsteps and seeking out the man who knew his Dad the best to help him there. You could have swapped boxing with many other professions and told the same story. The acting was great; everyone embodied their roles and were totally believable throughout. Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s easy to see why. This version of Rocky wasn’t the goofy self parody of the previous two films, and he wasn’t a stereotypical old mentor like Mickey from the first three films.
Sly had to show real range here; Rocky is man whose best days are behind and who has lost those closest to him to illness and old age; he’s the last of his generation here, and while he continues to live on he’d be just as fine if he was called home by the Good Lord. He’s not broken, and not too tired to go on but he’s alone. When he falls ill, he’s ready to go, but is convinced to keep fighting the good fight by Adonis, who is himself somewhat adrift and looking for purpose. Stallone and Jordan make this work better than any teacher-student relationship I’ve seen in a long time. Director Ryan Coogler should have gotten nominated for Best Director for getting this performance out of Stallone.
Phylicia Rashard was good in her relatively small role; the early part of the movie when she finds out Adonis has been boxing and goes on to explain to him just what the fight game can do to you by explaining his father’s injuries and ultimate fate was as gripping. The fight scenes, while as unrealistic as any Rocky movie in terms of how much of a beating was unleashed in the final bout, were well done and convincing. And finally, the city of Philadelphia was a big a star as it was in previous films. The streets, the hip hop club, and the gyms all breathe life into the movie.
What didn’t work
Not much. I think there should have been a bigger hashing out between the two main characters over Rocky’s role in Apollo’s death in Rocky IV. As realistic as the story was compared to previous Rocky movies, the idea that Adonis would be 15-0 with little formal training when he sought Rocky out is a bit much. But it was either that or have him go from zero to big fight worthy all in one movie and that would have been more ridiculous. Rocky Balboa started out as a raw club fighter who caught Apollo’s attention when he need a cupcake opponent; to do that all over again would have rung hollow. But that’s a minor quibble; the end product that we got made that no big deal.
Overall Grade: 8/10
Good story, great acting, very good movie and a worthy extension of the series. Definitely worth watching.