Creed is not just another Rocky movie. Rocky Balboa is in the movie, and it evokes the spirit of the original film, but it stands on its own perfectly. My girlfriend, who has never seen a Rocky movie, can watch Creed and love it without missing a beat (please don’t tell her that; I need leverage to get her to watch Rocky).
Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film has everything that made the Rocky franchise great before it turned into a parody of itself (looking at you, Rocky IV). It has heart; it appeals to viewers’ fear of failure. Ludwig Göransson composes an outstanding score that doesn’t just mimic the original. Perhaps the best technical aspect is Maryse Alberti‘s cinematography, which actually trumps that of the originals, creating a gritty Philadelphia, and helps build the tension leading up to the final bout. Yes, the plot is eerily similar to Rocky, but no one cares because it doesn’t detract from its majesty. Creed has a great story, but it isn’t about that. It’s about the characters, and they don’t disappoint.
The titular Creed, Apollo’s illegitimate son Adonis (“Donnie”), is the anti-Rocky. He’s riches to rags, whereas Rocky was rags to riches. He’s physically fast, whereas Rocky was famously slow. And the biggest difference? He’s proud. Rocky was overly humble, accepting his life as a street thug and initially declining his shot at the title. Donnie, on the other hand, needs a little humility in his life. He seems to jump in the ring without thinking about the consequences. Yet, the audience still roots for him. They want him to succeed, and wants the world to see that he’s as great as he thinks he is. Michael B. Jordan brings enough charm and heart to the character that his arrogance becomes a likable trait.
Rocky is as humble as he’s ever been. Stallone delivers a performance both heartwarming and gut wrenching, that is sure to get him an Academy Award nomination. He reminds the world why they fell in love with him almost 40 years ago, and that he’s still capable of playing more than just a caricature of himself. And his chemistry with Michael B. Jordan makes their scenes together the highlight of the movie (honestly, ask anyone what their favorite scene is and their most likely response will be “whenever Donnie and Rocky are together”).
The only detraction is the love story between Donnie and Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson. Not because it was bad; Thompson does an outstanding job. It just didn’t seem to contribute to the story; Donnie didn’t fight for Bianca like Rocky fought for Adrian. He fights for himself. Bianca just seems to be there to give Donnie someone to vent to and show his character progression. Which is fine; the film is good enough that even its weakest aspect is still enjoyable.
Creed is just like its protagonist. It’s grown up in the shadow of its father figure, and runs the risk of always being compared to it. But it fights to make a name for itself, while honoring the legacy of that which came before it. In the short time it’s been in theaters, it’s already proven to fans and critics that it isn’t just part of the Rocky franchise, but the start of something new and brilliant. Make sure to head to see it before that other holiday movie comes out and steals the show.