Director: Ryan Coogler
Writers: Ryan Coogler (screenplay), Aaron Covington (screenplay)
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad
The idea of a Rocky spin off sounds like taking things a little too far in a franchise that spanned over 40 years. If this movie had been pitched around 15-20 years ago I would honestly predict it would have been a straight to VHS release lying in some bargain bin at the local supermarket and the name Sylvester Stallone wouldn’t have been attached to it.
The surprising success of the 2006 film “Rocky Balboa” changed everything with this franchise. Back in 1990 the awful Rocky V looked to have killed off our beloved “Italian Stallion” in an underwhelming plot and substandard performances from the actors and not to mention the abandonment of the classic Bill Conti score. Fast forward 16 years and to be honest the news of a new Rocky movie didn’t excite me one bit. My first thought was…how old is Sly now? What far fetched storyline will we get to believe Rocky Balboa could step in the ring again. Well enough of that for now as I will do a Retro Review on that movie soon and explain why I was wrong on so many levels.
We revisit the “Rocky” universe 9 years on that film and surprisingly Stallone isn’t in the writing chair for “Creed”. Both Coogler and Covington wrote the screenplay and follow the early life of a young man named Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) (opening in the year 1998) who has spent most of his childhood life from one detention centre to the next. That is until an older lady visits him in his cell (after one two many punch ups) and offers him a chance to restart his life under her wing. Adonis surprised and a little confused on why this stranger would want to do this kind act. She reveals herself to be the wife (Mary Anne) of his father…….Apollo Creed.
The audience learns very early on that just before Apollo died, he had an affair and as a result Adonis was born after his father passed away. The year is now 2015 and we also learn that Adonis is now a settled young man making his way in the world and pursuing a career thanks to the guidance of Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) Just like his late father he has a passion for fighting and wants to begin a career in the ring under the name of Adonis Johnson to make his own name in boxing without the burden of living under a large shadow.
I must say the first 10-15 minutes of the movie made me realise that the angle Coogler and Covington found to resurrect the franchise was clever and solid. The casting of Rashad as a seasoned actor to play the widowed Mary Anne was just write to open the movie and Michael B. Jordan as the lead was a fine piece of casting too. Jordan was just about at the write age to portray a character that if we are checking our calculations should be 30 years old (although Jordan was 28 at the time) if Apollo in the timeline died in 1985 (is this canon?)
Having made this decision to become a fighter Adonis heads from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and to look up an old friend (and foe) of Apollo Creed. Enter Sylvester Stallone as the iconic but ageing Rocky Balboa. Stallone basically inherits the role played by Burgess Meredith in those original films and I think is the same age as Meredith was in the original Rocky. Since we last saw Rocky in 2006’s Rocky Balboa another family member has passed on (Paulie) and Rocky is still running his restaurant “Adrian’s” in honour of his late wife.
I have to say and this is full credit to the writers in this spin off movie. Although Stallone makes an influence on every scene, the storyline generally avoids a trip down nostalgia lane and to be fair to Stallone, he takes a back step in this story and only adds a familiar face to the film. Don’t get me wrong, Rocky is battling his own demons and both Adonis and Rocky support each other in their battles and their fight.
Without a doubt Michael B. Jordan occupies the leading role with charisma that Carl Weathers would be proud of while Sylvester Stallone carries his ageing character with dignity and doesn’t conceal. In fact it’s quite the opposite as he takes advantage of his age in order to portray Rocky’s story.
Tony Bellew portrays Liverpudlian”Pretty” Ricky Conlan, the cocky boxing champion of the world who needs a massive send off as a public relations strategy after some legal bills. What better way than Bill his final bout against the son of Apollo Creed. Unfortunately, the movie dedicates him very little time to Conlan and I felt he was as menacing as Mason “The Line” Dixon was in “Rocky Balboa.” Everything you expect from the public image of a boxer in real life but nothing happening in his personal life. This itself has a little impact on the fight itself as I felt a little more information about this character could have added a bit of spice to the fight. Nonetheless Bellew is a good opponent.
The same could be said of Adonis’ love interest Bianca played by Tessa Thompson. Thompson is a fine actor and every scene she is in is decent. The chemistry between Jordan and Thompson is also decent but the character is somewhat shoehorned into the story and doesn’t really serve any purpose other than Adonis having a connection outwith Rocky in the city of Philadelphia.
In summary “Creed” is a great movie and as believable as the story can be with the backstory already fleshed out about the main characters heritage and the legacy that is lying in wait. The actors barely put a foot wrong and the casting of Jordan and his chemistry with Stallone works. It may not be up there with Rocky or Rocky II, but I would put it on par with Rocky Balboa for its cinematography and for its storyline. Highly Recommended.