Director: Ryan Cooglar.
Screenplay: Ryan Cooglar, Aaron Covington.
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Graham McTavish, Andre Ward, Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran, Malik Bazille, Ricardo McGill, Wood Harris, Gabe Rosado.
“Time takes everybody out; time’s undefeated”
Nostalgia has crept into a lot of films lately. In 2015 alone, we’ve revisited Bond (for the 24th time) in Spectre, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is now the 5th film spawned from the 60’s TV show, Mad Max was rebooted with Fury Road, Jurassic World and Star Wars: A Force Awakens tapped into the magic and excitement of their predecessors and now Ryan Cooglar’s Creed is a revisit to the boxing gyms of Philadelphia and has much in common with the original Rocky of 1976. Yes, it’s hard to believe but it’s been 40 years since Balboa first had us on the edge of our seats and punching the air with delight.
Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has had a troubled youth and always forced to fight his corner in juvenile correction facilities. When he learns that his late father was World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed, Adonis decides he wants to go into boxing himself. With no-on-one to train him, though, Adonis heads to Philadelphia to seek the mentorship of his late father’s friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).Let’s face it, Creed was always going to be a bit of a gamble. Some people had written it off before it had even arrived but Ryan Cooglar and Michael B. Jordan’s follow-up to the brilliant Fruitvale Station is a gamble that pays off. For a start, Jordan is a very talented and charismatic actor who has a magnetic presence while Cooglar manages to put his own stamp on the proceedings, considering he’s essentially retreading old ground. A huge helping hand comes from the man himself, though; Stallone reprising his most iconic role is a real treat and it’s not just for nostalgia reasons. Sly is genuinely very good here and it’s great to see him recognised with a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination. He’s not normally credited with strong performances but when he goes against his tough guy persona – like he did in Cop Land – it just shows how well he can fit that type of role and that’s exactly what he does again. It’s the first film to feature Rocky that hasn’t been written by Stallone himself but Cooglar and co-writer Aaron Covington seamlessly manage to capture Stallone’s flavour for the character. Rocky is now older, slower and more vulnerable and Stallone has no problem displaying and embracing this vulnerability.As mentioned, it isn’t really anything new. We’ve seen, done and wore the gloves before but that’s even more of a testament to Jordan, Stallone and especially Cooglar for making this work. The fact that he goes back to making it more story and character-based and less about the pugilism adds a much needed freshness to the franchise and the bouts in the ring that we do see are very impressively handled. They’re frantically involving as Maryse Alberti’s camera dances around the ring as much as the actors and every crunching blow makes you feel more like a participant and less of an observer – It’s also an added bonus that the unashamed, flag waving jingoism that was so prominent in the Rocky sequels is toned down somewhat.Albeit from another character, this very much looks like the continuation of the franchise and it’s off to a good start. The only problem now is whether they can find the material to keep it from becoming stale. For the moment, though, Creed can certainly handle itself.
Trivia: At the time of this film’s release, Sylvester Stallone was the same age as Burgess Meredith was at the time Rocky was released (aged 69).