YOUR LEGACY IS MORE THAN A NAME
The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
I’m not the biggest boxing fan but the Rocky series, or at least the first film, is one of my favourite sporting movies ever. It’s a fantastic drama, the ultimate underdog story, and whilst the sequels slowly got worse overtime, I was still looking forward to the spinoff Creed, which put Ryan Coogler in the director’s chair. After the brilliant Fruitvale Station, his debut from 2013, I was eager to see what he could come up with next, especially with him being in line to direct the upcoming Black Panther movie. So it should be interesting to see where that goes but as it stands, I can’t wait, because Coogler is quickly emerging into one of my favourite new directors right now, and Creed is another success that’s probably the best Rocky movie since the first one.
The film itself focuses on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s rival and eventual friend from the series, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who lost his dad before he was even born and grew up as a result in extremely harsh conditions, in juvi, constantly fighting other kids before he was eventually picked up by Creed’s wife, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). Along the way to success in the boxing ring Adonis must battle the unwanted fame that comes with his namesake, whilst wanting to make a name for himself without relying on his father. However, when goaded into a match by English Boxer “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), who is facing his potential last fight in the ring before going to prison, Adonis has to make a choice, and with help from love interest Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and mentor Rocky Balboa (Slyvester Stallone), both of whom are battling their own problems, Adonis is thrust into the spotlight.
Director Ryan Coogler latches onto the nostalgia of the first Rocky movie and really captures the feel of the film. Sylvester Stallone puts in one of his best performances in years as Balboa, and both Thompson and Jordan display good performances in their respective roles. Bellew is your typical antagonist and the film does a good job at making him intimidating, daunting, and you can clearly see that he is several leagues ahead of Adonis, and it isn’t quite the same retread as the Apollo/Rocky rivalry as Coogler manages to handle his own take on the storyline. The film itself is rousing, emotional, and has an epic soundtrack that really captures the feel of the movie. The training montages are as good as ever and Coogler really makes the look and feel of modern Philadelphia really work. It’s been after all, over 10 years since Rocky Balboa, the sixth movie, so it’s interesting to see how the landscape is constantly changing. Yet some things remain the same, and it’s a delightful trip down memory lane as Creed gives Rocky the mentor role for the film, and it really pays off as you get the feel of another great underdog storyline.
It was also interesting to see the use of Goodison Park here play a backdrop for the fight scene because some crowd scenes you could tell were lifted directly from football matches. I’m not an Everton fan myself but it was a nice touch, as Stallone supports the club.
Creed is as uplifting and as brilliantly executed as the first Rocky movie, it’s clear to see why this was a dark horse for the Oscars this year and why Stallone is on the supporting actors list. There isn’t much wrong about this movie as Coogler keeps the film feeling very entertaining and makes use of some great, emotional dramas, wisely choosing to make the film as much about Adonis’ character as it is about boxing. Character drama was what made the first Rocky film so good, and again, it’s what really sells Creed here. Hopefully Creed will be the first of many sequels to come, and unlike the Rocky ones, they should only get better.