Building your own legacy can be one of the hardest things to create in life when your predecessor casts such a huge shadow. It can be a daunting task convincing people you are your own brand and not one that was bestowed on you. In the new film Creed directed by Ryan Coogler, both the title character and the film itself have to distinguish themselves from the background they come from. Up and coming boxer Adonis Johnson played the by immensely talented Michael B. Jordan wants to step out from behind his father Apollo Creed’s famous shadow and the film wants to pay respect to the Rocky film universe, yet be its own story creating a new path for the franchise.
Creed goes back to the intimate character study basics that made the original Rocky a classic, but still manages to feel big. Jordan owns the role of the biological son of the late Apollo Creed played by Rocky fan favorite Carl Weathers. Jordan doesn’t play Johnson as your typical mad at the world boxer movie stereotype. Adonis is just an individual chasing ghosts that will never be caught and trying to find a place where he belongs. Adonis Johnson doesn’t bask in the glow of his father’s accolades like most would expect heading into this film. Creed shows a more complex side of the family dynamic where your legacy can be damaging and actually hurt your quest to fulfill your dreams.
For those worried Creed would have a slow pace where 90% of the drama happens outside the ring never fear. The place where Johnson belongs in Creed is in the ring just like his father before him and the boxing scenes are the best ever put to film. Besides being a crowd pleaser, Creed is a technological achievement. Director Ryan Coogler puts the audience right in the middle of the action to the point where you swerve in your seat to dodge punches. Also the cinematography in Creed makes the rundown streets of Philadelphia beautiful, which is no small task. The story is strong, the action is solid and the direction is on point, but there’s one piece of the puzzle that holds Creed together.
Sylvester Stallone does the best work of his career even surpassing his Oscar nominated acting job in the original Rocky. Stallone takes over the Burgess Meredith trainer role, but his position in Creed is much different from fan favorite Mickey Goldmill. Rocky is living a quiet life running his restaurant Adrian’s and perfectly content leaving the past in the past. The former champ sees something in the son of Apollo and decides to emerge from the shadows and train the young fighter. Stallone’s performance isn’t over the top, but rather subdued with the Stallion just wanting to pass forward his ring knowledge to Adonis.
By deferring to Michael B. Jordan, Stallone becomes the standout of Creed showing the world he can give a strong showing despite how many Razzies are on his shelf. The chemistry between Jordan and Stallone is excellent with the two becoming family to each other through the course of the film. It will be a shame if Sly is not recognized in the Supporting Actor category during Movie Award Season based on past failures. Creed would not have been the special movie experience it was without Stallone perfecting his craft in very familiar territory.
Overall, I give Creed 3.5 out 4 stars.