When it was announced that a spin-off to the Rocky franchise was in the works, I was completely against it. The last film in the Rocky series, ‘Rocky Balboa’, was a terrific finale to the series. It was a great movie all around, and was a very fitting end for the character.
Later, when little snippets of information were coming out on this, I started to wonder. It began to sound like this would be ‘Rocky V’, but done better. When I realized that the people developing it had made 2013’s ‘Fruitvale Station’, I then had a firm belief that this movie might actually be worth making.
The over-all premise of ‘Creed’ really works. The son of the late Apollo Creed wants to prove himself to the world, and be more than just a shadow to the legacy of his father. With Rocky as his trainer, this movie really had two leading roles. What I loved about that, was that ‘Creed’ worked not only as a movie about a new fighter, but it was equally about Rocky. So in a sense, this is the closest thing to a ‘Rocky VII’ we would ever get.
The direction of this film is nothing short of amazing. There’s enough here to keep you highly interested in the character of Adonis Creed, while still maintaining heavy interest in Rocky Balboa. This movie stands on its own insanely well, while the legacy of Rocky still serves for the progression of this new story. If these elements weren’t evenly balanced out enough, I truly believe this film could have failed, and would have seemed like a cash-grab. Instead, I feel that this is a necessary and natural progression for the Rocky series, that also tells an excellent stand-alone story.
The fights were spectacular. Not much else to say. They feel real, they feel brutal, and they’re definitely suspenseful. One fight in particular was filmed in one take. Or at least that’s what it felt like. This was done excellently, and just added to the realism of this. No quick cuts, no montages. Just a real fight.
But of course you can’t have a movie in the Rocky universe without montages and great music. These traditions are all there. Of course, since this is a movie centered around a new character, you have to give him a new theme, and make his training montage different from Rocky’s. This was all done well, as all of these elements felt fresh, and weren’t rehashed from previous films.
And don’t worry, you do get some familiar Bill Conti music in here as well.
Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed was great. I cared for his character, and his relationships in similar ways to how I cared about Rocky in the previous films. I was worried that he would be a cocky-fighter, with lame reasons for why he wanted to be great. Rocky was the under-dog at first, and continued to have good, legitimate reasons for each fight he under-went throughout the series. Creed’s reasons made sense, and my worries went away pretty quickly as this film showed how real of a character he was. He felt like a human being that had the same helpful and caring heart that Rocky has always had. This was all displayed terrifically in his relationships with Bianca, his mother, and Rocky.
There were a lot of great moments, both serious, and with light-hearted humor, that stirred a lot of raw emotions out of Jordan, and those alongside him. Adonis and Bianca’s relationship felt reminiscent of Rocky and Adrian’s, but was still fresh and different. And the partnership of Creed and Rocky was handled incredibly well, and was honestly more fun and enjoyable than Rocky and Mickey.
With all that said, I really believe Rocky’s initial reluctance to be a mentor was the one subtle nod to ‘Rocky V’. The protege Rocky took up in the fifth installment was cocky as hell and just wanted to be champ for the money and fame. It’s clear Rocky would never train anyone, ever again, after what happened with him. This is a big reason why Rocky is so reluctant to train Adonis at first. But once Rocky sees that Adonis has a bit of himself and Apollo in him, he agrees to train him.
Sylvester Stallone is terrific as Rocky, as usual. This has always been the one character (save for Rambo where he hardly speaks) that he doesn’t phone in a performance. Over the years, with all of Stallone’s fun, yet stupid action movies (Expendables), you forget that Stallone can be a really good actor.
In my opinion, this was his best performance as Rocky since the first movie. Part of this might be because we had a great director calling all the shots. Most of the other Rocky sequels had Stallone in the directors’ chair, and so he might have dedicated a bit more of his efforts to directing. Here, it was obvious that he was able to just fully embrace this character again, and focus on nothing more. He gives an amazing performance, and I would really love to see an Oscar nomination. It’d be very cool to see him win an award for playing this character again, four decades later.
As I said before, Rocky’s story in this is just as great as Creed’s. I loved the dynamic that the two of them had. They were funny together, and had great dramatic moments as well. When Rocky discovered that he had an illness and was unwilling to fight it, Creed was right there telling him that he would only fight in the ring if Rocky fought this battle too. This plot point, and character motivation alone is what made this movie work for me the most. Their dynamic, and them working together is what really drew me into this.
To me, these movies have always been more than just about boxing, and fighting in the ring. There’s a deeper meaning behind it all. ‘Creed’ does nothing more than to carry this tradition, and have the boxing serve as a metaphor for all of the other things we have to fight for in life.
‘Creed’ is an excellent movie that creates and holds something brand new, honors the legacy of Rocky, and comes full circle in an extremely satisfying way.