When I first saw the trailer for Creed, I yawned, angrily. Then the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, showed up and I was instantly paying attention. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky is easily one of the most lovable dumb-lugs to ever grace the screen, and his being in the film changed everything. With Apollo Creed and Rocky’s history as enemies that became training buddies,
it made so much sense to have Balboa train the younger Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan).
Writer and Director Ryan Cooglar successfully makes Creed the seventh Rocky film in every way. Rocky still visits his wife Adrian’s grave to have a chat with her and now Pauly, who passed between films. More importantly, Adonis Creed is a young fighter who feels the need to fight just like his “uncle” Rocky. At the beginning of the film we see young Adonis quitting a
lucrative desk job to try and take his illicit Mexican boxing career pro. Young Creed can’t catch any breaks when his father’s gym won’t take him and his adopted mother refuses to support his boxing dream. Downtrodden Adonis finds his way to Philadelphia and harasses Rocky until he agrees to train him.
Staying true to the Rocky formula is one of the reasons Creed works so well, because it makes up for mistakes in the franchise’s past. Remember Tommy Gunn from Rocky V? Adonis Creed is the student Rocky deserves, and unlike Gunn we can root for Creed. And instead of a street fight between friends, we get a full-out title match between Adonis and the reigning champ, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, giving the movie the true underdog tale that a good Rocky movie should be. If you’ve seen a Rocky film before, you know this isn’t a spoiler—rather, it’s a mark of how well Creed is integrated into the series. The use of clips and discussion of events from the earlier films, and even tidbits like the answer to whom won the Balboa/Creed closed doors fight, don’t feel like they are shoehorned in. It just feels like the next Rocky movie.
But by sharing the screen with Rocky, Adonis’ character doesn’t have the same kind of magnetism that made ol’ Rocko instantly likeable. While Jordan does an excellent job throughout the film, he doesn’t make the same impact that Stallone did all those years ago except
in name. In a way this kind of works, as he is fighting to make his own name (he doesn’t use his father’s for much of the movie). His romantic story with Bianca (Tessa Thompson) works just as well as the Adrian/Rocky team-up. Still, if the franchise continues with the story of Adonis Creed, it would be hard to see it being a success without Rocky in his corner.
In true Rocky fashion there are parts of the movie that work better than others.
Balboa’s illness feels a bit tacked on, except for Stallone and Jordan’s performances. Other parts, like when Creed runs around Philly training followed by a bunch of dirt bikers, really clicked, because the film takes a familiar scene and twists it just enough to make it its own without feeling too on the nose. The only thing Creed is really missing is the opponent. Conlan is great as the angry heavyweight champ on his way to prison, but we see so little of him it’s really a shame. His character could have been as interesting as Apollo Creed himself if they had only given him more screen time.
So if you’re looking for a movie that has enough heart to make little old ladies in the theatre cheer (true story), Creed is the film to see right now. It is a true Rocky story that like most of
its predecessors will keep audiences coming back again and again.