In this day of the never-ending movie series, sequels, prequels, revamps, reinterpretations, and otherwise, you might walk into the latest continuation of the Rocky saga having little to no expectations – certainly none in regards to a sense of originality. It’s been claimed by many over the last few years that ‘Hollywood is running out of ideas’… and in some cases, it would seem to be true. But there’s also something to be said for ‘breathing new life into a story people love’. Michael B. Jordan, who plays Adonis Creed, has had a long enough career to have experienced both of these scenarios. One of his most recent projects, the relaunch of Fantastic Four, proved to be notably underwhelming at the box office; whereas his work on Fruitvale Station was met with critical acclaim. In CREED, Jordan (no relation to the basketball pro) partners once again with Ryan Coogler, the director of Fruitvale, who attempts to ‘breathe life’ back into the Rocky movies… but from a different angle.
Adonis Creed, the son of the boxer, Apollo Creed, made famous for facing off against and befriending Rocky Balboa, then eventually dying in a match against Ivan Drago, seeks to create his own legacy. Choosing to be known as ‘Donny’, he eventually hunts down Rocky (to whom he applies some amount of responsibility for his father’s death) and asks that Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) take him as his trainee. Balboa, now much older than the idol he was in his prime, refuses – at least, at first. Seeing nothing but pure desire and drive in Donny’s spirit, Rocky eventually agrees to take him on. During this time, Donny forms a romantic relationship with his neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who is also trying to make a name for herself in entertainment. After his first major match, and having caught some media attention for being taken under the wing of the infamous Rocky Balboa, Donny is soon propositioned to step into a match against the reigning champion, ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Despite some concerns about Donny’s inexperience in the professional area of boxing, he and Balboa keep training… having to face their own fears along the way; and fighting for what they love, who they love, their legacy, and each other.
I started off this piece by mentioning the film industry’s recent affinity for milking good movies to death by constantly producing more and more movies, hoping to draw in as much money as possible, riding the wave of the early success(es) of the original story – the legacy. Perhaps it’s not coincidental, then, that this is one of the main points pursued in CREED. This is Donny’s story, not Rocky’s. Though formulaic and cliché in much of its approach in story progression and dialogue, CREED is executed beautifully. A sense of self-honesty and humility is slowly realized by Donny as Rocky spends just as much time teaching him how to survive outside the ring as inside it. With beautiful art direction and pacing, one gets the sense that they are actually living in these dynamic and culturally-rich environments – and the amazing part is, it feels strangely comfortable… as though we’ve been here before, and we have total faith in whatever the future brings. Both Donny and Rocky have their own struggles – Donny, his fear of disgracing his father’s name; and Rocky, his failing body – and yet, there’s a sense of family and community that we can all relate to. Perhaps this has to do with most scenes taking place within small, enclosed interiors – forcing even those who don’t necessarily like each other to share the same space, the same moment, with each other; keeping them safe from the cold outside.
In any event – though CREED is in no way some revamp of Rocky that would see Balboa once again trying to prove himself in the ring against a rival half his age – it is a touching homage to the saga, to the boxing community, and to the life we all live together. CREED stands alone as a film that anyone can enjoy, whether or not they’ve seen the Rocky films, or even know of their existence. Both Jordan and Stallone do beautifully, and their dualistic chemistry keeps things moving at an engaging pace throughout the story. And, of course, there’s just enough ‘old vs modern’ witty banter to keep even some of the darkest moments light-hearted. Enjoy!
|Release Date:||November 25th, 2015|