Creed (2015) Review
By Scott M. Waldman
In life and on the field, a warrior must define themselves by their instruments of choice and the ways of utilizing their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. The characters of Ryan Coogler’s film portray everyone as warriors fighting to be moral, healthy, and to be champions of their world. Michael B. Jordan stands as Adonis Johnson/Creed who fights with the mantle of his father (Apollo), frightening the possibilities of him living up to his legacy rather than Adonis’s own. Tessa Thompson is Bianca who strives to make music while she slowly loses the ability to hear. Sylvester Stallone is Rocky Balboa who is an icon who just wants to continue living out his days as a restaurant owner until the moment Adonis enters his life. Creed is a heartwarming experience that will show where legends come from and how legacies are built by the through action rather than through fortune.
It has been just under forty years since the original Rocky (1976) premiered and captured the hearts of an entire cinema where the underdog known as the “Italian Stallion” fought the champion Apollo Creed. Creed takes this storyline and allows it to exist in the same universe with Adonis being the biological son of Apollo, and Rocky taking on the role of a mentor after Apollo’s death in the ring (you can discover on your own which film it occurs in; a very late spoiler). Adonis is a character who has his father’s fighting spirit which causes him to not accept a quiet life as his childhood (taken in by Apollo’s wife) and underground fights (instead of an office job) show. Adonis wants a real fight in the ring and sees his father as a legacy that he will never be able to achieve. Adonis searches for the perfect mentor to teach him how to stand toe-to-toe with his dad, and who better to teach him than the man who has done it on several occasions; enter Rocky.
As soon as Balboa learns of Adonis’s existence he immediately rejects the offer, but soon becomes the Mickey of the story that everyone just has to love. Stallone’s presence alone makes so many of the scenes just that much more enjoyable thanks to how he acts like a stubborn yet lovable character. It’s as if the Rocky from all those years ago never really left the ring and has reappeared as a personality rather than as a legend or icon that we have all known him as for years; Rocky was really human in this film and had actual weaknesses besides the next match. The chemistry between him and Adonis is another example of how well both the acting and the script build up the father-son relationship between the two fighters. Their relationship builds up to a point where Rocky is finally ready to put Adonis in the ring which sets up one of the great highlights of the film. The camera movements within the main two fights are wonderfully choreographed where every punch and block is recorded and felt. There is no moment during these sequences where the action slows down and it is brutal.
Creed is to Rocky as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) is to the original trilogy (mainly to A New Hope). It revamps the original themes by incorporating present day issues, but remaining true to the heart of any underdog tale where winning isn’t all that matters. The original landscape is even preserved as Philadelphia is presented in pristine condition and only showcases the most hidden of the cities jewels. As a fellow ‘Philly’ resident, I hope that this film encourages more usage of the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ beyond our brutal fan-base. The only issues in the film would have to do with the build-up to the final match; the rival doesn’t seem to get enough time to develop as a character and is explained with a quick montage although in the end the audience is preferring to cheer for Adonis rather than Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). The flaw can easily be pushed aside, because the fight wasn’t what really mattered. It was all about building a new dynasty that Balboa began in the mid-70s. Creed deserves a 9.5 out of 10 for bringing back a classic tale in a time and place where it’s indefinitely needed, incredible acting from both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, and a script that is both uplifting and yet pulling at the heartstrings. Coogler’s next film will be Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) which after seeing this film is definitely in good hands.