Creed is a spin-off from the ever popular Rocky series. The movie was an underdog trying to punch its way to greatness and would always have the shadow of the great legacy. Creed opened in cinemas 40 years to the day after Rocky released in theatres and gave us the greatest underdog movie of all time. The movie lives up to its rich legacy of its predecessors as it ploughs its own path to greatness. Do not get blindsided by the name, the latest entrant in the franchise is for all intents and purposes, Rocky VII. Ryan Coogler has created a rousingly emotional film which is the best since the original Rocky of 1976.
Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, Rocky’s greatest rival and best friend, Apollo Creed’s son born out of wedlock. Adonis is a troubled kid who bounced around foster homes and juvenile prison till Mary Ann Creed (Phylicia Rashad) saves the troubled child as they both share a connection with Apollo Creed. Donnie, as he is affectionately called is now a grown man with a stable job and undefeated unground boxing records. He refuses to use his father’s surname as he is hungry to make a name for himself in the hallowed ring. Adonis moves to Philadelphia to train to become a fighter worthy of the name. He begs Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him and the Italian Stallion’s initial reluctance melts away when he sees a reflection of himself in the brash kid. As Adonis says to Bianca (Tessa Thompson) his love interest, his pop was a father and that pedigree shows through as Michael takes on the role of Adonis Creed ably. Their love story is nicely fleshed as is Bianca’s character arc without either of them wrecking the main plot.
The original Rocky was not about winning but about an underdog showing grit and going the distance. Creed is as formulaic and sentimental as any of the Rocky movie, but Ryan Coogler’s able handling of the script along with Jordan and Stallone power packed performance lends this movie an indisputable, teary eyed lump-in-the-throat piquancy. You will be praying for the two underdogs in the movie from the moment you rest eyes on them. Adonis Creed is fighting his battle in the ring as his mentor Rocky fights his demons and deteriorating health. This movie is by far the best performance of Stallone in the Rocky series since the very first movie.
The final fight against undefeated champion Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) at Goodison Park in Liverpool is an edge of the seat bout and will leave you completely invested in the outcome. One of the finest moment though is an earlier fight where the camera moves in and out as the fighters brawl across the camera all beautifully captured in what appears to be one continuous take.
A great fighter once said, it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That quality is evident in Creed.
The Rocky series has tried hard to hit but more than that with this latest addition to the series it has shown that it can get hit hard and keep moving forward. The movie hits all the right beats and Coogler’s deftly guides it through the expected cliched story arcs yet it feels refreshingly new. The 29 yr old director keeps the film rolling with the energy of a train muscling its way through the beats and cliches only to come out smarter than it entered.
Ryan Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington have brought a tale which is as old school as it can get yet refreshing and new. The streets of Philly are beautifully captured by Maryse Alberti at times feeling as if you can smell it. A few iconic moments are always associated with the series and through the movie I was waiting for the moment when Adonis Creed would step up the almost hallowed stairs of Philadelphia Museum of Art and when he does with Rocky Balbao in tow it is hard to not get teary eyed. The music of this film had a tough act to follow as well but is splendidly composed balancing the new score with the old as well as giving enough space for the iconic Eye of the Tiger. The reverence the crew and artist have for the original movie is hard to miss none the more evident when Creed goes around catching chickens!
At one point in the film, Stallone gets Jordan in front a mirror and says, “This guy here is the toughest opponent you will have to face, I believe that’s true in the ring and I think that’s true in life. Now show me something’. Similar Creed‘s biggest challenge was the series was its toughest opponent and just like how Adonis is shadowboxing to his dad’s fight the series has always been a step behind in achieving the same success as the original. However, Creed has broken out of the shadow and shines as probably one of the best underdog movies since the original Rocky.