Summary: The orphaned, biological son of Apollo Creed turns to Rocky Balboa for guidance.
So uh… I’ve never seen any of the Rocky movies. Heyyyy! IRL, I’m not a huge fan of boxing. I went through an MMA phase but got over it. But I love wrestling! Weird, huh?
Directed by Ryan Coogler and (probably) the movie that led him to Black Panther, Creed is the kind-of sequel to the Rocky series or as Chris Rock refers to it, “The Black Rocky.” (He’s not wrong.) Turns out Apollo Creed, Rocky’s friend and fellow fighter, fathered an illegitimate son who has been in and out of group homes and juvie before getting taken in by his wife. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) sets out to follow in his footsteps as a boxer and asks Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, again) to train him.
It’s not so much a sports story as it is a story about family, specifically a father-son relationship between non-blood relatives. There’s an overwhelming sense of legacy, longing, and seeking of fulfillment. To a lesser extent, it’s also about Adonis’ identity as a young, Black male- this is in a less pandering manner and it’s there, but the little insight we see into his youth and non-ring life can be considered effective commentary on this subject. After 6 Rocky outings, I can only assume it’s refreshing to see this kind of underdog story with a new, different character, with a struggle that’s all his own, forming his own relationships, and such. I mean, this story can play out only so many times before it all starts to get old- it’s why people hate on John Cena so much. It’s nice to see a new take on a familiar plot.
The nice thing about Creed is that it feels like Rocky the Character plays a minimal role in the story- this really could have been made without him and his character could have just been substituted with, say, an old trainer or any rival, really. It would have been just as good too. It’s nice that this can grab the established audience with “Oh, it’s about Rocky and Apollo” but simultaneously welcome a new one by defiantly not naming it Rocky and dropping any sort of association in the title or the poster. The recognizable Rocky tune is played maybe once- only once. This is very, very much Adonis’ story.
Rightfully so- Jordan absolutely carries the entire movie. He has such a range in this movie, giving not only the sport its grace and diligence but the character his internal struggles and aspirations. In an emotional turn point, he just turns right back into the young boy fighting people in juvie. He’s engaging from start to finish. This was the same year the #OscarsSoWhite controversy happened and I can totally see it for Jordan and the entire movie. Creed isn’t just a good sports flick that happens to be about a Black athlete- it’s an exceptional sports movie, with bold storytelling, vibrant editing, and a firmly backed protagonist that the audience feels.
There are so many times I felt lost in the filmmaking and entirely wrapped up in the narrative. Coogler is a hell of a director. Like when Adonis is running through Philadelphia to get to his gym and encourages some random people to join him- the moment is enthralling to watch and this is through the careful process of humanizing the character and crafting the tension. Not to mention, it’s just so… badass. Tough. The one-shots following Jordan from the locker room to the ring isn’t just Coogler flexing his vision, but it’s to engage us in Adonis’ process. (Dude, I love long takes. They get me every time.) Coogler does such a good job in setting the tone and bringing Adonis’ mood to the forefront. Sports movies are always fun because you can cheer along with them- but the ones that make you rupture into applause because you want to- well, that’s a winner. No pun intended.