"The result is a knock-out."
lmost 40 years since the first Rocky movie, the characters created still have enough resonance to cause excitement today. Part sequel, part reboot, Creed is also not afraid to show it can be a contender.
Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan) never knew his father, having to learn how to fight at a young age to survive a run of orphanages. Finally adopted by Mary Anne Creed (Phyllicia Rashad), wife of the former boxing champion, she reveals to him the secret of his heritage. He is Apollo Creed's illegitimate son. Now, 30 years after Apollo's death in the ring, Adonis tries to make it in boxing, by seeking out Creed's greatest challenger to train him. One Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).
Blow for blow, Creed punches well above its weight. Although only the second film for director Ryan Cooglar (Fruitvale Station), he is demonstrating a distinctive visual style, but is not afraid to fold elements of the original film into this style. The result is something that is recognisably Rocky, yet at the same time unique. It hits all the emotional chords it needs to as we follow this young boxer's journey, and although it references the previous films, it stands proudly on its own.
Creed is a visual treat capable of flooring the audience with its spectacle. With a history of gruelling fight sequences to live up to, Cooglar owns the ring. Creed's first professional fight is a particular stand-out, seemingly filmed in one take, with the camera in close to the boxers for the match. The result is unlike anything we have seen previously in boxing films, and the audience is granted real access to the arena.
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There is also an unreserved joy about seeing Stallone’s seventh run at the character of Rocky Balboa. It is a role he inhabits with a casual ease based on years of familiarity. It grants Rocky an utter believability. That, and the unflinching way Stallone faces his encroaching age should earn him a best supporting actor's nomination come Oscar time. Yet it is Michael B Jordan, playing the titular Adonis Creed that is the star of the show. He is driven and focussed, but knows when to hold his performance back. Consequently the rapport between Jordan and Stallone is completely natural, as the two verbally spar during training.
This is a fascinating way to treat a franchise. In many ways it is a natural evolution, rather than just a sequel or a reboot. Focussing on the events of previous films, drawing from that canon and introducing a legacy character really rejuvenates the brand. It is a smart fiscal play, but the genuine love and attention placed into this movie makes it more than just a cynical cash grab. In a film focussed on the theme of honouring a legacy, it takes great pains to achieve exactly that with all that has come before it. The result is a knock-out.
Originally Published by X-Press Magazine