Creed  is the Rocky spin-off/revival from up-and-coming writer/director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station). Here he reteams with his Fruitvale leading man Michael B. Jordan to tell the story of Adonis Johnson, the son of the late Apollo Creed. To Rocky enthusiasts, you know exactly who this is. For those who are unfamiliar, Creed was one of the greatest boxers in the Rocky universe. Adonis, or Donnie, searches for his own path and tries to get out of his father’s looming shadow via boxing, and he needs the long-retired Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to help him.
Far more than a sports movie. Creed is a boxing movie and a movie in the Rocky franchise, yes, but it goes far beyond those labels. It is a powerful, emotional film that is very much a stand-alone story. One does not need to be a Rocky fan to appreciate or enjoy it, but it certainly does not hurt. The emotional beats will be even more profound and potent for fans of the character.
Dark horse for some Oscars. Creed is a truly exceptional film. It takes a franchise that really had no right to go to seven films and kickstarts it in a fresh, exciting, and extremely cinematic fashion. Ryan Coogler directs the hell out of this movie, and while he is only 29 years old and this is only his second feature film, he has quickly become one of the hottest directors out there. The film is brilliantly paced with lots of character building and room to breathe. The film takes its time and feels like it earns its over 2-hour runtime. Sports movies can feel redundant and cliched, but Coogler somehow tells a story that not only hits home but is rewarding and interesting throughout.
What about the fights, tho? Well, let me tell you about the fights! They’re great! The climactic fight has all of the emotion and a huge, heartfelt payoff that is bound to make fans of the franchise shed a tear or two. It’s exciting, well-shot, and very many lives up to the fights of Rocky’s past. However, there is a fight before the climax that really steals the show. Cut together to look like one take in Birdman-like wonder, this fight is incredible. The camera swoops around the fighters, going in for close-ups and panning out to show vicious body shots. This fight feels more like something from Raging Bull than Rocky and is one of the most memorable scenes of 2015.
The return of Sly. Michael B. Jordan gives a wonderful performance, hopefully helping him blossom into the big-time leading man he deserves to be. However, it is Stallone that crushes this movie. He delivers a performance many would not believe possible from him. It’s emotional, complex, fully developed, and not even a little bit hammy. Stallone will be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, mark my words, and honestly might have a good shot at winning, too.
One complaint. Creed is an immensely satisfying movie, but it's obviously not perfect. The romantic subplot and the love interest were a little underdone with stuff likely left on the cutting room floor. This may be further explored in sequels, but the romance felt a little skimmed over. But as far as problems with a film go, that’s not that bad.