Creed is helmed by a 29 year old & has a 28 year old playing the lead. By the time both of them were born, the Rocky franchise already had one great & three mediocre films! So, Ryan Coogler decided to give the audience yet another franchise film in an already crowded year (remember Jurassic World, Mad Max, Terminator?). With creed, he tries to make a film that will help the current generation of movie goers with a piece of history & a sense of nostalgia.Jordan plays a talented light-heavyweight whose rapid ascent in the sport is fueled by an identity crisis. He grows up in foster homes and juvenile detention centers before being adopted by Apollo’s ( Apollo Creed, nemesis turned best friend of Rocky) widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), who raises him in Los Angeles and keeps him away from the world of boxing.
As you can pretty much guess, you can’t take the fight out of the boy. Adonis finds time off work and clandestinely fights a series of boxing matches in Mexico, while planning to make it big someday. As no one wants to train him in LA, he finally moves to Philadelphia (Much against his mother’s wishes) to make a name for himself. This is where he comes face to face with Rocky (Mr. Stallone) who has by now quit boxing and is running a restaurant and keeping a low profile. He’s all done with boxing, but Adonis persuades him to give it one more try. They start training, and before long a shot at the title materializes.
Well, that is the crux or pretty much the whole story.
Jordan showcases an impressive acting range as Adonis goes from angry kid to a man who has to make an identity for himself. While he is competent inside the ring he is terrific off the ring too. Jordan’s Adonis is a lot more complex than Rocky Balboa ever was. He shows enough character to take the torch from Stallone and keep going. His chemistry with Stallone is very well done.
While the story is pretty much about Creed, the original Itallion Stallion still holds his own. He’s taken up the role of the gruff, uninterested trainer. (Now, where have we seen that before?) And Sylvester Stallone, while happy to steal a scene every now and then, cedes the limelight to Michael B. Jordan. That is what makes the movie lively. As a superstar, he could have gone ahead and hogged all the limelight, but he relents and let’s Jordan shine. His relationship with Creed is complicated. He is a gritty ex world champ, but he also needs someone to take care of him, especially when illness adds a melodramatic twist to the plot. Rocky has reconciled himself to loss. He proves that, at his core, he is much more than the “action hero” that we have come to know him as.
The rest of the cast is present to make up the numbers. Whether it be the quintessential apprehensive mom, supportive girlfriend, slimy opponent, aggressive supporters. Everyone is around to goad on the same clichés any boxing movie has ever thrown at us.
The story as such has the same template of the Rocky series. It is an underdog story. It has a young man who is out to prove that he is the best the boxing world has thrown up. He finds himself a trainer who trains him to take on a superior boxer and ultimately goes on to bring glory. But therein lie its strengths, too. What the film does well is to take the audience back to Rocky and Apollo’s relationship from the older films to give Creed its needed gravitas. There is a splendid sequence where young Creed walks the Philadelphia steps along with the legend himself. This shot is of great significance as we see that one has clearly is past his glory and the other sees the whole life in front of him on reaching the top. There are enough elements from the old films to make us root for Creed.
Having said that, Creed is a very modern film. Ryan Coogler finds plenty of ways to make his story feel fresh both technically and thematically. The camerawork is fab, the ring sequences are shot extremely well and for most part, you feel as if you are inside the ring, taking or meting out blows. Here Adonis’ first real fight is worth mentioning as it is shot in a taut single shot that circles around the fighters as they deliver blow after blow.
Also, the score, composed by Fruitvale Station veteran Ludwig Göransson, moves back and forth seamlessly between the original Bill Conti fanfare and present-day hip-hop, interpolating tracks by artists like Future and Meek Mill. It is very atmospheric and keeps the tempo right throughout.
My single biggest take out from the movie is a Hollywood rarity. It is a boxing movie with a black hero. It celebrates the victory of a young black man making it big.
Ryan Coogler made an impressive feature film debut in 2013 (Fruitvale Station) with Michael. B. Jordan in the lead. It worked out really well for both of them. They pick up from where they left. Creed is a good “beginning” for the second run of the famed Rocky series. It will be interesting to watch where it goes from here.