[Movie Review] ‘Creed’ Carries on Legacy of ‘Rocky’
While it’s not a reboot or remake, promoted instead as a “spin off”, make no mistake; Creed is Rocky 7, rightfully forgoing the franchise name in favor of a fresh take on the original Rocky‘s timeless themes and tapping into one of the most iconic legacies in American pop culture.
The film wants to carve out its own identity in a world where its predecessors are larger than life, in exactly the same way that Adonis Creed fights with all his heart and soul to make his own way in the boxing ring, where his father, Apollo, was a legend.
Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic Four) plays Adonis, who goes by the name “Donnie Johnson” so as to not be associated with or dwarfed in the massive shadow of his dad, former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, famously played by Carol Weathers in the first four Rocky movies. Jordan’s performance is masterfully executed, drawing us into his corner from his opening scene in a sketchy Mexican hole-in-a-wall where we first see him fight through to his inevitable big time bout against the champ.
Even when Donnie’s showing his cockiness, we let it slide and love him anyways, because we remember how cocky Apollo was, but for good reason as he more than earned it. Apollo is of course long since dead, but his overwhelming presence if felt throughout the entire film, from the first scene to the tear jerking last, hanging over viewers’ minds just like he hangs on his son’s heart. And Donnie wants desperately to connect with the father that he literally never knew, though he constantly says out loud that he wants only the opposite.
It takes Donnie’s own Adrian character, in the form of Tessa Thompson’s Bianca, to tell it to him straight that he is the son of Apollo Creed and he should carry the name proudly into the ring.
Donnie fears being seen as a sell out only cashing in on his famous name, but more than that, he really fears not living up to that name. He fears failure, he fears himself, and he needs a trainer that can give him the Eye of the Tiger, the courage to face his toughest opponent in the mirror. And that’s where Rocky comes in.
The character of Rocky Balboa has become such a part of pop culture the casual viewers too often forget that Sylvester Stallone not only wrote the original script (and all five sequels that followed) but also acted the part so well that many people think he really talks in the boxer’s memorably mumbled style, but it’s all just a testament to Stallone’s amazing talent as an actor to be so identified and forever connected to one of his creations.
Has there ever been a movie character more lovable than Rocky? I mean, seriously, how can you not smile at Stallone’s sensitive, aged performance, as Rocky visits Adrian in the graveyard, goes through his daily routines, and finds new inspiration in the young Creed.
Stallone has never been more vulnerable, and he has never been better, even in a role he clearly wears like a reliably comfortable old pair of sweatpants.
Familiar is it may be to fans of the 1976 original Rocky, Donnie’s journey is not the same as Balboa’s was, but it’s much more than a simple update of the same story.
Creed gets your adrenaline pumping and your heart burning, reminding us why we all fell in love with Rocky in the first place, building on an impressive legacy with the natural next chapter of America’s all time favorite underdog.
Official Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Creed (rated PG13) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.