Creed opens with an intense fight scene. This fight, however, isn’t taking place inside the ring, it’s going down in juvenile hall. Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is young, sad, lonely, and boy does he like to fight.
Donnie’s got a lot going on, too much to fully comprehend the rage that seems to have built up inside him. Overwhelmed and irritated, Donnie is still heated when a visitor arrives to see him. Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) is not Donnie’s mother. She’s Apollo Creed’s widow and it’s awkward.
Donnie is the product of an affair, born after his father’s death. He never had the opportunity to get to know Apollo, and he became a full-fledged orphan when his mother died in a car accident. It’s odd that Mary Anne wants to connect with Donnie of all people, but she’s seen enough in this life to understand that little else matters outside the connections that we choose to make.
Time passes and Donnie and Mary Anne become family. He becomes a guy with a fancy job, fancy clothes and an enormous home. Mary Anne is the widow of one of the greatest fighters of all time and she’s got the fortune to prove it. What’s hers is now Donnie’s and despite all this, he wants to fight. It’s all he’s ever known as his own, and no matter what changes, the need to follow in his father’s footsteps never does. To do that successfully he knows he will need guidance and who better to give it to him than Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) himself?
One resignation and two heart-to-hearts later, Donnie’s in a tough but charismatic part of Philadelphia. He’s in Rocky’s neighborhood now and starting over yet again. Creed is the underdog story you’re already familiar with and Donnie’s the guy that’s going to spin it into something new. A classic has been updated and a franchise reborn.
Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Adonis, while explosive at times, is more often carefully understated. He’s not ripped like some mutant superhero; he’s built like a boxer. His temper, while volatile, doesn’t reek of melodrama. His anger isn’t a tool he uses to get the job done, it’s his motivation to do better. Jordan brings us a boxer that’s passionate, stubborn and deeply vulnerable, despite his short fuse. It’s easy to identify with Donnie and his need to prove himself. You want Adonis to make it from the very start, and that’s due in no small part to Jordan’s stellar performance.
Sylvester Stallone brings back the gentle, soft-spoken boxer we all know and love, and he’s flawless. Rocky’s the same man, but he’s been through more than he’s willing to admit. He’s slowed down and even though he’s in the same neighborhood, he feels worlds away from the life he once knew. This older version of Rocky is lonely too, but he’s content. He’s lived a good life with good people, and he’s OK with where he’s at and where he’s headed. This quietly powerful performance is easily one of Stallone’s best.
Ryan Coogler (Director) puts Philadelphia smack in the middle of the story once more, making this experience fully immersive. Coogler doesn’t attempt to re-make Rocky’s story, what he does with Creed is reignite possibilities. It’s clear that this movie was made by a fan of the original Rocky. Coogler incorporates many references to the original movies into the heart of this new film. That nostalgia only lasts a moment, though, because this story doesn’t end with Rocky, it starts with Adonis. That original energy--which catapulted Rocky’s tale into American movie culture forever--is back and it’s undeniable. As a huge fan of boxing as well as Rocky I, II and IV, I can tell you with full certainty that Ryan Coogler has effectively nailed it.
Creed – A
A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something, you should watch this. This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies. I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind.