Plot: In the twilight of his life, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has a mostly isolated existence and spends a good amount of time in his past, often sitting at the grave of his beloved wife, Adrian. He has made his peace with the passage of time and in truth, seems content to rejoin his loved ones in the next world. But his life changes one again when he crosses paths with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s old rival and friend Apollo. Adonis is a boxer himself and while he has some skills, he struggles with the demons of being the product of Apollo’s unfaithful marriage and never even having the chance to meet his father. In Rocky, he sees not only a chance to train with a legend, but feel a piece of a connection to his father, since Apollo felt so bonded with his former rival. Once word spreads that Apollo has a son that boxes, a once in a lifetime chance pops up, when a troubled champion sees an opportunity to cash in and defend his title against the son of an iconic legend. But does Adonis have what it takes to compete with a fighter of that level and even with the support of his family and Rocky, can he learn to cope with his inner demons?
Entertainment Value: Creed is a perfect example of how to revisit and extend a well established franchise, as it has deep connections to the original movies, but is also able to forge its own identity in the process. The narrative is similar to the original Rocky, but it has enough new elements to make it feel fresh and in addition, underdog stories are quite common in sports. So while this formula has been mined countless times, it is one that remains effective in the right hands and in the case of Creed, the old formula still has ample kick. I will say Creed is wholly predictable, but that can be said of not just the Rocky movies as well, but almost the entire “underdog sports” genre, so it is hard to hold that against the movie. I think enough new wrinkles are present to make it feel at least a little unique and people love this kind of story, so Creed being able to tell it in such an effective fashion is more than enough. The film is slick and super polished, with glossy visuals and razor sharp editing, so it is a far cry from the grittiness of Rocky, but it suits the material. The pace is slightly off at times and the film feels overly long, but it is never slow and the momentum remains intact. In short, fans of the Rocky series won’t want to miss Creed, but anyone who appreciates character driven, underdog sagas will likely find a lot to like here as well.
It was wild to learn Sylvester Stallone was the same age in Creed that Burgess Meredith was in Rocky, as Stallone still looks like an absolute beast, even if age has caught up with him in some ways. His performance here is excellent, an understated, but confident turn that elevates the movie, but lets the spotlight stay on the lead. He would be nominated for an Oscar for his work here and he deserved it, as he plays the role to perfection and helps Michael B. Jordan shine. Jordan might not have the pure charisma Carl Weathers had as Apollo, but he brings passion to the role of Adonis and puts in some more than competent work here. I liked that Adonis wasn’t made to be an Apollo clone, as it lets Jordan built his own identity as Adonis and helps Creed feel like its own story, rather than a rehash. I have to admit, I was sad to see a Rocky movie without Burt Young, but at least Paulie’s death was acknowledged here. The cast also includes Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Andre Ware.