Today: February 22, 2024

Creed

Reinvigorating a much loved and hugely successful franchise is very in vogue. It worked for Star Wars and, like the galaxy far, far away, Rocky has had bumps in his cinematic journey. That might be confusing given that this film is Creed, a different beast altogether to The Italian Stallion, but while the character might be different the DNA is full-blown eye of the tiger.

Adonis ‘Donny” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has bounced around juvenile homes and the system for most of his life. But when he is approached by the widow of his father he learns the  truth about who he is, Apollo Creed’s son. Living in Apollo’s mansion Donny is want for nothing. But, like his father before him, there is a fighter in him, a fighter who needs to be in the ring. So, throwing in his well-paid, respectable job Donny travels to Philadelphia to seek out the only man who he knows can make him into a champ like his dad, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Determined to make a name for himself he goes by the name Johnson but before long the truth is revealed and Donny must face the truth, in the ring, about taking on the mantle of his father.

What works so perfectly with Creed, as it did with JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is it takes the genetic makeup of the original film and expands on it while paying homage to it. If you’re a fan of the Rocky movies this is going to give you goosebumps of excitement while if you’re new it immerses you and initiates you into the world of boxing and Rocky effortlessly.

What co-writer and director Ryan Coogler has accomplished with Creed is to reinvigorate the franchise. While the name on the title says Creed this is just as much Rocky’s story. And it’s a story that plays out with a sense of respect and charm rarely served to aging characters and indeed, in the case of the iconic Stallone, actors.

It would have been easy to simply tell Creed’s story without involving Rocky. It would have been easy to essentially remake Rocky: a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who no one ever gave a chance goes on to fight for the World Title. But Coogler smartly tips things on their head. Donny isn’t from the wrong side of the tracks per say, he lives in a mansion, his girl supports his fighting. But at the same time he’s just like Rocky, who in this story is fighting a very different battle, in so far as he’s trying to prove himself while living in the shadow of Apollo.

Beyond the smart narrative twists and nuances Coogler manages to constantly touch on the Rocky films that have gone before. But it never feels like he’s treading over old ground. The montages are still there but the legendary theme tunes only enter the fray when Coogler knows they’ll land the emotional killer blow. And land them he does, repeatedly.

Having had huge success with his debut feature Fruitvale Station Coogler once again turns to Jordan, one of Hollywood’s most exciting young actors. As Creed Jordan dispels with the cliches of movie boxers. He’s not arrogant, unless he’s in the ring, but instead humble, respectful and often achingly conflicted in proving himself not to the world but to himself. Meanwhile Stallone brings a level of aging dignity and vulnerability that surely even he could never have foreseen when he set out on Rocky’s journey back in 1976. Here he gets to playing the fragile old-timer, the hardened coach and the loving father figure. And he nails them all with aplomb and heartbreaking brilliance.

More than lasting the full twelve rounds Creed is a perfectly pitched and fist-pumpingly brilliant movie that happens to fit perfectly into the Rocky stable.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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