Sylvestre Stallone has finally stepped aside and let a fresh pair of eyes take a swing at the tiring Rocky franchise. Stallone still reprises his role of Rocky Balboa (and water is wet, the grass is green) but off the back of two less-than-entertaining Rocky films (Rocky V & Rocky Balboa) this fresh approach was due.
Ryan Coogler, who directed the very impressive Fruitvale Station which also starred Michael B. Jordan, are these fresh pair of eyes. The usual framework to the Rocky franchise is adopted to Creed but with Stallone taking a side step as a director and character, allows for freedom with Coogler at the helm.
The inclusion of a new central character, allowed for this freedom to happen and take a different approach to the framework applied. Coogler still adopts this, but at the same times breaks the pattern as Adonis has to work his way into ring for a shot at the big time instead of simply granted a shot.
Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis (the son of Apollo Creed), who bounces around foster homes until he is taken in by Mary Anne, Apollo’s wife. It’s clear Adonis has a chip on his shoulder as he heads to the gym in Apollo’s memory to challenge everyone there, trying to prove his worth in the ring. He promptly quits his newly promoted job and flies across the country to Philadelphia, the home of the great Rocky Balboa.
The direction from Coogler was fantastic. The story became gripping as Michael B. Jordan shows an impressive performance as the leading man, but the big triumph was the immersive and action-packed boxing scenes. Of course, when it boils down to it, the Rocky franchise hinges on the action sequences throughout the film. The later films became slow and tired looking, whereas Creed shows a fresh approach into the matches as you become involved and invested in the match.
The makeup was excellent, and really shone through in the boxing scenes. Especially with Michael B. Jordan’s eye, the makeup was that excellent I found myself wincing in pain as he was hit in the right side of his face numerous times. But this carried on throughout the film, giving Stallone an aged looked which was just as impressive.
Adonis’ maturity was handled superbly, as he develops a love interest in Bianca, (Tessa Thompson) who has intentions of her own instead of just being a love interest for the screen. His maturity shines as he goes back to basics at the North Street Gym, which became enjoyable scenes as he trains with his new corner-team.
Much like Star Wars and Jurassic World that teased and used the original theme, Ludwig Goransson does the same, teasing it every now and then throughout Adonis’ training regime. However, the score also included apt music, like Meek Mill (Relevant to Philadelphia) during his training in Philadelphia and Krept & Konan (Relevant to United Kingdom) when he fights “Pretty Boy” Ricky Conlon.
Shots and cinematography-wise, there isn’t much presented, but the camera work throughout the film was excellent and made a boxing match exciting again, something that I found Warrior and The Fighter in recent memory failed to do. The entrances during the big fight were entertaining, especially with “Pretty Boy” Ricky’s entrance adding to the grand spectacle that surrounded the fight.
With the added twinge of comedy, Coogler has certainly upped the enjoyment of the Rocky films especially when comparing them to at least Rocky V and Rocky Balboa. This is the best Rocky film recently by a long stretch but for a tired and weary franchise, there is some life yet, before it’s knocked to the canvas for the last time.
I throughly enjoyed Creed and it’s an enjoyable watch regardless of if you have an allegiance to the Rocky franchise or not. Michael B. Jordan and Stallone were superb in their roles and really helped the film move at a good pace and leaves it to be open for another sequel with Adonis as the star.