December 1, 2015 by Zack
“Creed” is technically the seventh “Rocky” film, and it’s probably the best since the original “Rocky” in 1976. While “Rocky Balboa” was a great apology for “Rocky V”, “Creed” is a fresh start that begins a new legacy and starts to say good-bye to an old one.
The film opens up with Creed as a young boy, known as Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, who seems to be a magnet for fighting at the juvenile correctional facility he lives in. He’s taken in by the wife of Apollo Creed, who died in the mid-80’s and is not the mother of Donnie, as he was conceived by a woman Apollo was seeing on the side. Donnie (played by Michael B. Jordan as an adult) lives a decent life, and has a decent job, which he leaves as the boxing world beckons him, as his father’s shadow also haunts him.
Donnie doesn’t go by his last name Creed, he wants to establish himself as his own fighter and have his own name. He enlists Rocky Balboa (in a truly Oscar worthy performance by Stallone), who reluctantly agrees to train him, because he was such good friends with Donnie’s father. Donnie has to establish himself first, and has his first real professional fight which he wins. His real last name, however, is leaked, and Donnie is requested to fight a guy on his way out but still has something to prove. Ricky “Pretty” Conlan, a English fighter out of Liverpool (played by real life boxer Tony Bellew), is the one defending his title. Adonis must agree to change his last name to “Creed” in order to put himself on the ticket.
Of course, he accepts and of course there’s a big fight at the end. In the middle, we have a wonderful character study of Donnie maturing, but also finding himself close to Rocky and the friendship between the two is where the real strength of this film is. All of the training montages (because every “Rocky” movie must have one) are great, including my favorite that involves a group of rowdy bikers, and of course we are rooting heavily for Donnie to win his fight against Conlan. But he’s not the only one fighting something. Rocky is diagnosed with an early stage of cancer, and knowing what his deceased wife Adrian went through and lost her battle, he isn’t sure he wants to put the gloves on for that. Donnie makes him realize, however, there’s something to live for.
The other nice relationship is with Donnie’s neighbor, Bianca (well played by Tessa Thompson). She’s an up and coming musician (the music sounds much like trip hop, and reminded me of Massive Attack), and she seems to shut out most people, but she is interested in Donnie. The two of them have some sweet scenes together, and we very much feel like we’re seeing Rock and Adrian again–but these two do not go an ice rink and no turkeys are hurled into the snow.
The film is strong because writer/director Ryan Coogler wanted to make a “Rocky” picture personal to him, and he succeeds. The performance by Michael B. Jordan is also strong, and he makes an appealing character much like Stallone did with Rocky for all those years. We might yet see a new series of “Creed” pictures. I think the formula can sustain itself if the story and characters can continue to grow. It’s always a pleasure to see Stallone play a good role, and Rocky has always been my favorite.
There are nice homages to the series, including a brief cameo by Cuff and Link; and Donnie receives a pair of trunks in the style of his dad as a gift from an important person in his life that also wants him to have his own legacy. This film achieves what Donnie did, in doing just that.