Starring: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
We’ve seen a lot of revivals this year of old franchises. Jurassic Park and Star Wars most notably were revived with great success. But, Rocky was revived too, just in the form of Creed. Considering the lukewarm reception Rocky Balboa received a few years ago, you’d think it’d be the end of the franchise. Instead, a redirection of the series has breathed new life where there wasn’t any. Putting Rocky in the backseat, and having him support a new lead was a smart decision. Casting Michael B. Jordan was a genius one.
Jordan plays Adonis Creed, who originally grows up bouncing around foster care until he’s adopted by his father’s widow (Rashad) and raised in the best of circumstances. He just can’t shake the fact that he feels the need to fight. It’s in his blood. He walks away from a posh job to follow his career as a fighter, following in the footsteps of his father. He doesn’t use the Creed last name, hoping instead to make a name on his own. He does, however, seek out the one man who could beat his father…. Rocky Balboa (Stallone). With Rocky in his corner, and his aspiring musician girlfriend (Thompson) keeping him on track, Adonis is on the path to greatness, if only he can stand out of the shadow of his father.
Ryan Coogler has written and directed a really good film. More importantly, he’s actually requiring Stallone to act here. No wonder Stallone is on the Oscar radar. He’s fantastic. This is actually his best work, possibly ever, but definitely since Copland. Stallone has so much experience under his belt, it’s really nice to see him actually using his skills. Jordan is anchoring the film with another great performance (following his breakthrough in Fruitvale Station). It’s another star making turn for him, so perhaps he will actually BE a star after this. He reminds me a lot of Will Smith, when Smith started getting serious about his acting. And, both Thompson and Rashad do solid work in their performances. Thompson has more to do, and I wish her character was fleshed out a bit more. She’s given a really interesting backstory involving progressive hearing loss, which I expected would find our Adonis trying to learn sign language, but he never does. In fact, other than showing up for gigs for her, she spends more time supporting him than he does her. So much for feminism and equality, especially from a girl who fought so hard for it last year in Dear White People.
I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the entire Rocky franchise, so saying “Best Rocky Film Since The Original” doesn’t really mean a lot coming from me. I still believe it to be true. Ryan Coogler is a very promising director, and when you bring him into the story, I really think he adds something to the end product. He’s very competent, and I hope that one day he’s rewarded for his obvious vision and talent.
Creed is definitely worth your time, even if you haven’t seen any of the Rocky films. I believe it has a universal theme that everyone can appreciate. Be your own man, one step at a time.
FINAL GRADE: A-