Creed - Review

You thought that Rocky's story ended with Rocky Balboa? You thought wrong.
Along comes Creed, a new spin-off/sequel to 2006's Rocky Balboa that puts Rocky out of the boxing ring into the place of the trainer. And not just any trainer, but the trainer of Donnie Creed, the son of Rocky's deceased former rival and later best friend, Apollo Creed.
After everybody thought that Rocky's story finally met a satisyfing end with Rocky Balboa, it's easy to think of Creed as just another simple cash-in on the name of Rocky.
Yet with the up-and-comer actor Michael B. Jordan involved and Stallone himself always being very invested and loving in the treatment of the Rocky movies, one has to wonder whether Creed is a worthy entry in the Rocky franchise or a simple cashgrab and poor attempt to extend a saga that already ended...

The plot:
Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is the son of the famous boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died in a boxing match in Rocky IV (1985). Adonis wasn't born until after his father's death and wants to follow his fathers footsteps in boxing. He seeks a mentor who is the former heavyweight boxing champion and former friend of Apollo Creed, the retired Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky eventually agrees to mentor Adonis. With Rocky's help they hope to get a title job to face even deadlier opponents than his father. But whether he is a true fighter remains to be seen...
Source: IMDb

After Rocky Balboa (or Rocky VI) supposedly ended the Rocky Saga in a satisfying fashion, Creed comes along as a spin-off/sequel that nobody really expected, or let alone expected to be actually good.
Luckily though, Creed happens to be something of an admittedly unnecessary continuation to Rocky's story, yet nevertheless a solidly told and well done new entry.
With great performances by both leading actors, Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, Creed in many ways feels like an updated remake of the original Rocky, told through the perspective of another different character. In that way, Creed manages to reinvent and extend certain aspects of the Rocky franchise while also paying its respects to the classics.

Apparently, Rocky's story isn't over yet.

It doesn't take long for the average movie-goer or let alone Rocky-fan to realize that Creed's overall storyline is actually quite familiar and fairly basic. Once again taking on the archetype of the underdog sports storyline, Creed has Apollo Creed's son Adonis left stranded in a life that he isn't satisfyed with. Wanting to reach the same fame and accomplishment as his father, Adonis aims to become the best in boxing just as his father before him. With that said, it's easy to spot that Creed follows the same basic structure as the original Rocky, with the underdog working his way up the ranks in boxing. Yet different from Rocky, Creed doesn't start off with a talented nobody but rather with a cocky somebody. Turning the foundation of the lead characters around in a way, Adonis (or Donnie) is already carrying the famous name of his father but has to prove his worth of said name and ability to keep up the legacy of his father.

It's the classic underdog tale from another starting point.

This simple twist in Creed's rather classic storyline is what gives the movie enough drive to be different enough to entertain and serve something new for audiences. On top of that, Donnie Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) is a very different character compared to Rocky from the original. Instead of a simple minded, charismatic nobody, Donnie is full of himself and cocky right from the get-go. Having just started professional boxing and already betting Mustang cars on anybody able to beat him. It's a no-brainer that it doesn't take long until Donnie learns that there's always somebody better than you and that he has to learn discipline and work for the fame of his father - and with the help of Stallone as his new mentor, Donnie wants to achieve this.
It becomes clear that Creed is not only a simple spin-off to focus on another character, but also a direct Rocky sequel, bringing Rocky's evolution from boxer to mentor full circle - making Rocky now assume the role of his former trainer Mickey, and Donnie Creed now having become the new Rocky.

Rocky has come full circle: the apprentice has become the mentor.

Expectedly, Creed thus works with a lot of nostalgia inducing imagery and scenes. Thus, for example, training sessions in which Donnie has to chase after a chicken appear as nice reminders of Rocky's tough beginnings and training sessions with Mickey, proving that despite the fact that over 40 years have passed since the original, old-school ways of training boxers still show their value and effect.
Yet all the callbacks to older Rocky flicks are not only in Creed to serve as fan-service but are also used to good effect in the dramatic parts of the movie. Having never met his father through his untimely death in the ring (which could've been prevented by Rocky), tensions in certain emotional scenes are expected and well handled in Creed. The movie manages to balance its drama very well with its main underdog training plot without favouring one over the other. Though Creed still in many ways might feel familiar to other Rocky flicks, it avoids feeling overly formulaic thanks to a healthy focus on the theme of loneliness and having no father or son to give reason in life. Especially in the final act of the movie it becomes very clear that Creed is just as much about boxing as it is about Donnie needing a father figure and Rocky needing a family to support and put his energy into (since his own son has moved away).

Two lost souls finding each other.

Still, Creed is not entirely perfect. There are certain moments in the movie where the plot just treads along and feels a little too safe. This could've been easily worked out if the plot of Creed wouldn't feel as conventional as it does in many ways.
Once again, Creed is a very traditional story at its core that manages to not feel overly stale thanks to its characters. But especially in this case, one would've wished that some of the more emotional and powerful conversations and scenes, like Donnie accusing Rocky for being the reason why his father died in the first place, were more commonplace in the movie and handled a bit more in-depth.
Weighing this shortcoming out in a way, is the fact that the actual boxing matches in Creed are amazingly well shot. In addition to some very impressive camera work, including one match being seemingly shot in one long take, the fights as a whole are choregraphed and depicted with almost the exact amount of tension as the one's from Rocky I and II.

The tension of Rocky's fights returns in Creed's well shot boxing matches.
Lastly, the performances in Creed are all very good.
Michael B. Jordan succesfully rectified and washed away the bad taste of his involvement in the horrible Fantastic Four reboot and is back in form in Creed as Donnie Creed. His performance of Donnie is varied enough to really sell the character as a person who went through a change of personality and attitude: from the cocky famous son of Apollo, over the underdog fighting by another pseudonym, to the son of Apollo Creed who isn't afraid to prove his worth to Rocky and his father's legacy.
Sly Stallone as Rocky is just as likable and fun as ever. While it might come off at first as if Sly is simply playing himself, it doesn't take long till you notice certain quirks and simple minded understanding issues that are typical for Rocky's character. Most notably though, the dramatic scenes are astoundingly well performed by Sly. Moments in which he reflects on his life and especially the loss of his wife Adrian are often really tearjerkingly sad and convincingly pulled off. It's luckily no Million Dollar Baby-style overly melodramatic jibber jabber, but instead hits just the right amount of feels to avoid making it feel forced. 

"Do you forgive me for Fantastic Four now?" - "...Maybe."

Overall, Creed is an admittedly somewhat unnecessary but nevertheless very solid and well crafted sequel to the Rocky Saga that manages to make Rocky's story from boxer to mentor go full circle.
Though its core plot and storyline relies heavily on the well established underdog boxer formula that has already been used countless times in other sports flicks, Creed feels very much like a tweaked remake of the original Rocky in many ways. Here, it's not about a no-name boxer working his way up, but rather about the son of a famous boxer who wants to prove his worth and ability to carry his father's legacy.
Yet Creed is not a movie that loses itself in nostalgia and fan-service moments but instead also manages to stand up as a good dramatic continuation of Rocky's story. With Donnie Creed needing a father figure and Rocky needing sense in life to keep on living (literally), Creed isn't only a simple underdog story but also one about two people finding and needing each other.
Also, it doesn't hurt that Creed additionally offers some impressively shot and intense boxing matches well worthy of having a place in the Rocky franchise.

Sure enough, Creed will definitely resonate the most with viewers who are already fans of the Rocky movies, whereas it nevertheless still stands on its own as a very solid boxing movie for everybody else.
Working mostly with the same basic Rocky story structure, don't necessarily expect it to be the best or most inventive movie in the franchise. Yet given the fact that everybody thought Rocky's story already ended with Rocky VI in 2006, Creed surprisingly enough still manages to bring enough new perspectives and ideas to the table, to extend the saga with another worthwhile entry.

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10


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