This new addition to the Rocky canon packs a real punch.
After six films and forty years, Rocky’s power looked to be waning, and the franchise seemed stuck on the ropes.Ryan Coogler’s Creed not only resurrects the cult-favourite series, but brings a new lease of life to boxing films and will surely attract a new generation of fans to Rocky. Creed is an enjoyable, gripping and heartfelt film for hard-core Rocky fans and newbies alike. This is the first instalment in the Rocky saga that wasn’t written by Sylvester Stallone, and sees writer-director Ryan Coogler take the helm. Creed is Coogler’s second feature film (Fruitvale Station (2013) was his critically acclaimed debut), and his second with Michael B. Jordan, who here stars as Adonis Creed, the son of the legendary Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers in Rocky I-IV). That the first four Rocky films came out before either Coogler or Jordan were even born, speaks to the breath of fresh air they bring to Creed.It's also a reminder of the enduring legacy and appeal of Stallone’s classic character; a legacy that is honoured here, even though the veteran actor isn’t the star. Stallone’s Rocky Balboa is recruited by Adonis to train him as he tries to both follow in his father’s footsteps and break out of his shadow. Stallone’s role in the film is literally a supporting one, as his beloved Rocky nurtures Adonis and becomes a father-figure and a mentor. Stallone has this week been nominated for an Academy Award for his role here, less than a week after forgetting to thank Jordan or Coogler in his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. He would do well not to make that mistake a second time (should he win at the Oscars), particularly because the success of Creed is largely down to sterling work by both of them.
Jordan is compelling as Adonis and manages to embody both the charisma of Apollo and the bitterness and hardness of Adonis, who has boxing in his blood but feels the weight of the Creed name on his shoulders. Adonis moves from LA to Rocky’s Philadelphia stomping ground to train with his father’s old rival and friend, and Jordan’s performance conveys the perfect amount of bravado, vulnerability and toughness, which complements Stallone’s performance perfectly. Furthermore, Adonis’s boxing opponents in the film were played by real-life boxers, so Jordan’s performance going toe-to-toe with them is even more impressive. Adonis fights characters played by Malik Bazille, Gabriel Rosado and Andre Ward before going into the climactic championship fight against Tony Bellew’s ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan.
Coogler’s direction here is assured and pitch-perfect. After six films and countless parodies more training montages might have been corny and derivative in another filmmaker’s hands, but Coogler imbues Creed with a sense of energy and purpose that was perhaps missing from the last couple of Rocky films. Adonis’s bout against Leo Sporino (Rosado) was filmed in a single unbroken long take, and elsewhere Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti manage to make the boxing matches exciting for sports fans and cinema fans alike. The decision to cast actual boxers in the film was an inspired one and continues the realistic tone of the original franchise.
More training montages might have been corny in another filmmaker’s hands, but Coogler imbues Creed with a sense of energy that was perhaps missing from the last few Rocky films.
There are nods here and there to the original franchise (a scene on the “Rocky steps” outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art; at breakfast Rocky cracks some eggs but, in his old age, fries them rather than drinks them), and the film’s underdog story is reminiscent of the original Rocky, but none of this seems repetitive or too sequel-like. This is a new addition to the Rocky canon and Coogler’s script pays the appropriate amount of homage to one of the all-time iconic cinema franchises, while still being original.
Rocky fans will see and love Creed; Coogler has described his script as being like fan-fiction and the movie plays just like one of the original Rocky series. People who haven’t seen Rocky should see this film too – it’s well-made, it has tons of heart and even non-boxing fans will be compelled by the gripping fight scenes. Having Rocky Balboa come back into the world of boxing to train his one-time rival and long-time friend’s son was the only way the saga could be continued. Coogler, Jordan and Stallone work perfectly in tandem and with Creed they've picked the Rocky franchise up off the canvas, dusted it off and restored it to heavyweight status.
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