Out of all the franchises that have gotten revivals in 2015, I wasn’t exactly expecting one for Rocky. I thought that Rocky Balboa was a pretty good and solid conclusion to the saga of the titular boxer, from his humble beginnings to his fame and fortune to his missteps to his comeback and finally proving that he’s still got it after all these years. Sylvester Stallone even said that Rocky is his “baby”, it’s his signature role, but there does come a time, especially considering after so many movies, how is it known when enough is enough? Apparently not in the case of Creed, which, much like the titular character of this film, was able to defy the odds and go the distance. Basically like the first Rocky movie (or probably almost ALL the Rocky movies depending on point of view), just updated.
I didn’t see Ryan Coogler’s previous film and directorial debut, Fruitvale Station, but I heard good things about him and that movie, and Michael B. Jordan is an awesome actor (not to mention the highlight of Fan4stic, piece of shit movie that was), so with Sylvester Stallone no longer being EXPENDABLE and ready to get ROCKY (ok I know bad joke), it was a match made in Heaven for these guys. It’s been called the best Rocky movie in years (so what does that make Rocky Balboa, chopped liver? ok bad joke but you get the point), and oddly enough, while he does have a main role, he’s not the main character, especially given his name isn’t in the title, but whatever. This movie proves its worth of being a passing of the torch for the series by showing a compelling character, Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan), with a chip on his shoulder, having to go through almost the same process that Rocky went through when he started only a bit different since he had other opportunities and circumstances, but also having the weight of the legacy of his father, Rocky’s friend and former rival Apollo Creed, on his shoulders, and still manage to prove his worth despite all the odds. On top of that, he’s struggling with trying to form his own identity and legacy, to set himself apart from his father that he never knew but knew of, and is still able to become a champ in his own eyes and everyone else’s after everything he goes through, proving to others and himself that he’s not a “mistake”.
Only things that are kinda off-putting in this movie are the fighter stats for the random fighters that appear at the gym in the beginning of the movie. They aren’t utilized again throughout the rest of the film, so I don’t know why they were there. I guess this is the movie’s equivalent of the “Chekhov’s gun”? Also, the villain isn’t exactly compelling here either. “Pretty” Ricky Conlan is portrayed well by Tony Bellew, but there isn’t enough focus to make him a major presence. Sure, he’s presented as a tough guy, a rough fighter who gets in trouble, and he fights Adonis in a manner similar to the fight between Apollo and Rocky in the first movie, but that’s about it. This is Adonis’s story and it’s also something that’s reliving the Rocky movies of the past, only focused on him, but the other movies did give ample time and development for the opponents, making them standout characters no matter how many appearances in the series they had, be it the multiple films that Apollo was in and his transformation during those films, or the one-off appearances of Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, and Mason Dixon.
It also wouldn’t be a Rocky movie without supporting characters in the protagonist’s corner (see what I did there? ok last joke, I hope). While Rocky himself is in a supporting role, that doesn’t make his presence any less major or his voice less, uh, Stallone-ish (or any less deserving of an Oscar nomination, seriously Stallone deserved to win, at least he got the Golden Globe). He’s at the age and point of his life where he’s a lot like his mentor Mickey, having something in him, but too damaged to carry on and so he’s content to live out the rest of his days in whatever peace he can get. Then Adonis comes along and Rocky not only sees a chance to honor his friend Apollo, but to look out for him and make sure he doesn’t get hurt too bad like he did, trying to get him out of the fight and do something better, yet there’s that fire he sees in Adonis that Rocky also had and still has, so he consents. Doesn’t stop the cancer he has from not existing, so it takes Adonis to remind him that if he doesn’t give up, then neither should Rocky, and should keep fighting no matter what. There’s also Adonis’s girlfriend Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson), a struggling musician who is a kindred spirit of sorts to him, forming their relationship despite the struggles they go through in their respective fields. It’s really endearing and sweet and I almost thought they weren’t gonna make it, but then again this is a Rocky movie and the female love interest always ends up supporting the guy near the end, helping them give an edge they need in their corner. It is kind of a shame that other characters from previous movies couldn’t appear, though there is other compelling characters like Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad), who supports Adonis no matter what despite him being a reminder that Apollo cheated on her, and there’s Tony “Little Duke” Evers (played by Wood Harris), who is the firm but fair older brother type of figure that gives Adonis stern and cautionary advice at times, though he can be a bit of a dick.
Creed is more than just a spin-off or another entry in the Rocky movies. It is its own movie. Much like the titular character, it has beaten the odds set against it, though a lot of people were highly anticipating this movie anyway. Everyone involved, from writer/director Ryan Coogler to the champs in this movie Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, and everyone else involved, it’s able to climb its own historic steps and it’s gotten strong now and will stay strong for a long time.