Rocky is one of the most recognisable film franchises in the world. It’s the film that was one of Sylvester Stallone’s first major roles and arguably his best-known role (with Rambo being his second). But now a new film steps away from the Rocky title, ready to make its own legacy using new characters from the Rocky world. That film is Creed.
Creed stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad and is written and directed by Ryan Coogler. The film follows Adonis Johnson (Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed, who decides he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlists Rocky (Stallone) to train him.
Ryan Coogler was the director of one of my Top 10 favourite films, Fruitvale Station and for a first film it’s a solid entry. Now with Creed, he’s showing that he will be soon be one of the most sought-after director’s working today. Coogler is already an expert at crafting a story and has a very good eye for composition and camera work.
Michael B. Jordan (who worked with Coogler before on Fruitvale Station) shines as Adonis Creed. The actor obviously bulked up and trained hard for the role and it pays off, he looks every part the fighter Creed would be. Sylvester Stallone is just Rocky again (you get what you pay for) but manages to add a lot more complexity to the role, with small scenes like him visiting the graves of loved ones or the little mementos of his family around his house adding to the character. Tessa Thompson (who was here last year in Dear White People) as Adonis’ love interest Bianca is a good addition, even if sometimes I didn’t quite think there was a lot of chemistry between her and Jordan.
The boxing fights, while not the main focus of the film, are punishing and bloodied. While there are only two full matches, Coogler and his cinematographer Maryse Alberti capture the gladiatorial bouts perfectly. The first fight, which looks like it was shot in one take, is breathtaking. The camera dances around the ring with our fighters, and it still manages to be engaging despite not having any noticeable edits in it. Edits help keep the pace up in a fight sequence, but all we have here is a very well choreographed scene with two actors who can sell the hell out of beating each other up. The final fight scene, while more traditionally edited than its earlier counterpart, is still very enjoyable, even if it has a weird edit where rounds are cut down to ten second montages.
The sound design in the fights is what sells it though. We hear every punch and every block, with some of the more heavy blows making me wince at the sound of it. It’s a film where you feel as if you are in the middle of the fight, almost to the point where you are about to start shouting along with the crowd. It’s hard not to get a contact high from it. It got to the point where I thought that the guys on screen facing Jordan weren’t actors but full-blown boxers they just got for the film (and then I went and looked it up for the review and found that is opponents were actually boxers).
I’d already addressed the main problem I had, that of the chemistry between Thompson and Jordan, but I’ll broaden it out a bit more. While they have some good scenes together, including a “first date which isn’t an actual date”, their blossoming relationship isn’t really expanded upon to any great length, which is a shame. It would have been nice to see these two together in more scenes and break away from the usual classical Hollywood tropes of romance subplots.
In summary, Creed is a breath of fresh air in a series that should have been dead a long time ago. To paraphrase what the old man said, “It’s not about how many films you make, it’s about how many you can make and still make them fun.”
Score: 8/10 Good, solid entertainment.