Creed (2015) Directed by Ryan Coogler. With Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson.
After achieving critical acclaim together on 2013’s Fruitvale Station, the teaming of writer-director Ryan Coogler and actor, Michael B. Jordan takes an unlikely left turn into the world of Rocky Balboa with Creed, a film that continues the legacy of the Italian Stallion while birthing a new, youthful strand of storytelling.
Jordan plays Adonis, the son of Apollo Creed from the first four Rocky movies. A prime physical specimen, Jordan is excellent in a performance that conveys a great balance of reverence, arrogance and guts – mirroring the personalities of both Apollo and Rocky, while conjuring a new character born out of abandonment, learning how to live and love. It’s exactly the kind of emotional depth many people wrongly disassociate with the Rocky movies, which in essence, are a series of films about a character who happens to be a boxer.
Stallone is never more at home than in the skin of Rocky Balboa, a character he has built and evolved throughout six previous films of varying quality. In 2006, his return to the screen (and ring) as Rocky was a glowing triumph of nostalgia and heart, in which the passage of time had forced the character onto the ropes of life as the underdog we could all root for, once again. That same theme is continued here, almost 10-years later as Balboa opines – “Time takes everybody out; time’s undefeated”.
Huge recognition must go to Ryan Coogler, who does a J.J. Abrams with Creed, co-writing and directing the film to appeal to fans old and new – not only fully understanding the sense of heart and rhythm a ‘Rocky’ movie needs to have, but also the importance of past and present, and never being bogged-down by trying to service both. It’s a hard trick to pull off, especially to make it all feel so natural, but he does it with ease.
Familiarity and affection for the character and the series as a whole, is a must for getting full value out of Creed. There are nostalgic references to each of the six movies, but one particular nod to Sylvester Stallone’s real-life deceased son, Sage, who co-starred alongside him in Rocky V, is so heartfelt and touching, that as Stallone plays the scene, you can see the love, affection and loss burning behind his eyes. If only for this moment, the man deserved that Oscar statuette. In short, a beautiful, emotional film that resonates a strong sense of love, friendship and family. 5/5