In this age of reboots and sequels, the legacies of beloved films tend to cloud originality. The original “Rocky” is as adored as any film franchise and picked up Best Picture in the process. Now, near the 39-year anniversary of the original, “Creed,” the seventh film in the franchise, looks to return to those inspirational roots. Another rare thing is for a film franchise to feel revitalized after six previous iterations. “Creed” completely breathes new life into the saga while respecting the legacy of the previous “Rocky” films, and it is an original film in its own right.
“Creed” features the journey of Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who has kept his identity as the illegitimate son of late world-champion boxer Apollo Creed a secret. Adonis strives to be a boxer himself and journeys to Philadelphia to achieve this dream. There he meets Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and boxing legend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Adonis has to come to terms with the legacy of a father he never knew and tries to create a name for himself.
The story may be a bit predictable, but it is a return-to-form for a franchise that has gone in some ludicrous directions. The film is most reminiscent of the original “Rocky” and has a solid father-son pairing in Adonis and Rocky. There are many nods to the franchise’s roots, but the film never gets too caught up in that lore. The focus remains solely on Adonis through the end.
Jordan is stellar as Adonis. “Creed” also sees Jordan reunite with director and co-writer Ryan Coogler, as the two previously worked on the independent film “Fruitvale Station.”
Jordan plays his character well, coming off as focused, driven and likeable. Aiding Jordan are Thompson and Stallone. Thompson brings an air of mystery to Bianca, a musician slowly going deaf. She chases her dream just as Adonis chases his. This is Stallone’s seventh outing as the “Italian Stallion,” so this is a character that he has down. “Creed” brings the character of Rocky to different places and is the first in the franchise where he has a supporting role. Stallone is especially gripping when Rocky discovers he is sick. He cries but fights the tears away and decides not to share the news. Despite the gravity of his illness, Rocky brings much of the humor to the film, and Stallone deserves an Academy Award nomination for the role.
The cinematography is exceptional. There are two distinct shots in the film that appear to have been done in one take. One is an entire two-round fight scene. The camera is in the ring during the fight and still goes to people standing at ringside. What could be dizzying is instead engrossing and raw. That scene is impressive and is not an isolated incident. The entire film features careful
camera work, using similar shots throughout to draw viewers’ attention to new elements. The film plays with lighting, especially in the closing sequences.
The main question that surrounds the character of Adonis is the same one that surrounds the film “Creed,” and it happens to be the subject of the film’s tagline: “Your legacy is more than a name.” “Creed” isn’t just another “Rocky” movie. It creates new, dynamic characters with struggles and stories of their own. Adonis has to make a name for himself in boxing aside from public associates with his father. “Creed” succeeds as both a reboot and sequel to “Rocky” and leaves the viewer excited and inspired.
“Creed” was directed and written by Ryan Coogler.