Ryan Coogler’s Creed brings back Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character Rocky Balboa who trains the son of his first major opponent, Apollo Creed.
The Rocky franchise is one of the most popular and more iconic in Hollywood so it makes sense that studio execs would want to continue it in some way but with Sylvester Stallone not getting any younger and being done with the physicality involved in these films options are fairly limited. I’d say that the approach taken here is a solid one. It’s a good idea to shift the focus to a younger character who is mentored by Rocky so that he can still have a notable presence in the story.
The character chosen is Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan). He is the product of an affair and was born after his father died so has had that figure absent from his life. He starts out as a damaged character but not absurdly so. There’s a sense of realism to him as he works to get past the emotional issues he has and still function as well as dealing with the fact that his father is a cultural icon. You have the standard stuff of him not wanting to know much about his father early in the film and gradually becoming more proud of his heritage as the story progresses. It’s interesting that his love of boxing is more focused on Rocky than his father as shown by an early scene where he watches a replay of their first fight and tries to follow along by mimicking Rocky’s moves rather than those of his father.
Michael B. Jordan is great in the lead role. He brings a lot of strength yet vulnerability to Adonis -or Donnie- while still being able to crack a smile and a joke when the occasion calls for it. Physically he is very believable as someone who is both fit and strong enough to take on some of the toughest fighters in the world so he’s a good all-around choice for this character.
It doesn’t really need to be said but Stallone is fantastic as Rocky. He fits back into this role perfectly and is always a joy to watch. There are points in the film where he brings a level of emotional intensity that can only remind people how good an actor he is. It’s easy to forget when he does so many fairly one note action films. As good as he can be in that sort of role it’s not a patch on Rocky Balboa. Everything about him is still intact from his all-around likability to his integrity and the sense of loss that comes with him.
At this point in Rocky’s life his best friend Paulie has died and his son has moved away so he’s completely alone. He’s still well respected where he lives but he has nobody left that he is close to. To top it all off he finds out he has cancer this time out and has to deal with that. All I could think while watching was “give him a break”. Rocky’s been through a lot in his time so the cancer could be seen as a bit much.
I say “could be” as it fits really nicely into the overall story. It runs parallel to Donnie’s training and even factors into a montage. In essence Rocky does get to fight in this film but it takes a different form to what we’re used to. It was a clever way to give Rocky some personal stakes without contriving his way back into a fight with someone.
The relationship between Adonis and Rocky is definitely the core of this film and it works really well. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone have excellent chemistry and bounce off each other well. Seeing Rocky impart his training techniques as he passed the torch onto a younger generation of boxer was great to see and I’ll always get a kick of the rustic homemade training techniques such as catching chickens.
It’s a relationship that builds organically throughout the film which is why it works when the symmetry of their struggles comes into play. I constantly got the sense that they were growing closer and that Donnie always respected Rocky even when he disagreed with him. It’s something I’d like to see developed further through the potential sequels.
The story is really easy to follow and very well done. Donnie is struggling with the legacy of Apollo Creed and goes on a journey towards finally accepting that he owns that name and should be proud of it. It follows pretty much the beats you would expect but it works well enough that I didn’t mind. It generally remains light hearted and optimistic while fitting in tonally with the other Rocky films so no real complaints in the overall execution.
Not everything about it is perfect though. Donnie has a love interest in the form of Bianca (Tessa Thompson) that feels completely by the numbers. It’s a shame as she’s an interesting character who doesn’t really get enough to do. The idea of a musician who is slowly going deaf is brilliant but needs much more development in order to live up to the potential of that idea.
Another issue I had is with Donnie’s main opponent, Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). There was nothing technically wrong with him as he was featured about as much as the film needed him to be but to my mind the best of of these films come with a well fleshed out villain that needs to be defeated. Look no further than the Rocky films to see good examples of well developed antagonists. The final bout was technically very well executed but I wasn’t as invested in it as I could have been if Conlan had been better developed. His obsession with his own legacy could have factored into the story perfectly so it comes up as a bit of a missed opportunity.
These flaws are relatively minor and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film too much. This film would actually have worked really well without Rocky being a part of it and it would have been so easy for that aspect to come across as tasteless fan service but Rocky’s inclusion adds another dimension to the story that enriches it. There are lots of references to the Rocky films but I never felt beaten over the head with them. Even the score teases the iconic music from those films. All told this is a worthy continuation of the Rocky franchise and I look forward to seeing more.
An excellent continuation of the Rocky franchise that also happens to work as a film in its own right.
The character of Adonis Creed is great choice to continue this franchise. He starts out as a damaged character but not absurdly so. It’s interesting that he has to deal with an absent father figure who happens to be a legendary figure in boxing. You have the standard stuff of him not wanting to know much about his father and becoming more proud of his heritage as things progress.
Michael B. Jordan is great in the lead role. He brings a lot of strength yet vulnerability to the character while still managing to crack a smile and joke when the occasion calls for it. The physicality of the character is very believable as well.
Stallone fits right back into the Rocky character and is always a joy to watch. There are points in the film where he brings a level of emotional intensity that reminds people how good an actor he really is. Everything is intact from his likability to his integrity and the sense of loss that comes with him.
The relationship between Adonis and Rocky is the core of this film and it works really well. Jordan and Stallone have excellent chemistry and bounce off each other really well. It’s a relationship that organically develops throughout the film and I’d like to see it developed further through potential future sequels.
Adonis’ story is easy to follow and really well executed. It follows pretty much the beats you’d expect but it’s done so well that it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. The film remains light hearted and optimistic and fits in well tonally with the other Rocky films.
There’s a romance subplot that isn’t all that interesting despite the character of Bianca having lots of potential right from her introduction. The whole execution of it was pretty by the numbers.
It also falters a little in the treatment of Adonis’ main opponent. He has little to no development and isn’t set up to be the villain that needs to be defeated. These films work better for me when they have well developed antagonists. The fight itself was well executed but I wasn’t as invested in it as I needed to be.
These flaws are minor and didn’t hinder my enjoyment too much. This would have worked really well without Rocky being a part of it and it would have been so easy for that aspect to come across as tasteless fan service but it enriches the film instead. There are lots of references but not to the point I felt beaten over the head by them. Even the score teases the iconic music. This is definitely a worthy addition to the Rocky franchise.