Creed is a sports drama film directed by Ryan Coogler and written by Coogler and Aaron Covington. It is both a spin-off and sequel in the Rocky film series and stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew. and Graham McTavish.
The Story/The Direction:
This film takes place after 2006's Rocky Balboa and looks at Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers)'s son, Adonis (Jordan) from an affair he had before the events of Rocky IV. Adonis was born after the events of that film. Apollo's widow, Mary Anne (Rashad), adopts him after he gets put into a juvenile detention facility. Fast forward, Adonis works for a financial group but he is not happy so he leaves to pursue a full-time career in boxing. He first tries to seek teaching from a boxing academy but they reject him. He then moves to Philadelphia to seek out Rocky (Stallone) who initially rejects teaching him but eventually agrees to do so.
Coogler directs his second film with a prowess that is only seen by directors who have been working for a long time. He is able to take the arc from the first film and keep it fresh. Even though the arc is similar, the film is still able to give off a power and emotion that the original film had. This film is clearly a love letter to the franchise and each scene shows this. Coogler focuses on his characters' faces and emotion. Coogler's direction is beyond fantastic as his film is able to take the themes of the film and show them in each shot.
Adonis is the focus of the film and this film acts as a passing of the torch for his character. Jordan is able to capture each moment with valor. Adonis or Donnie as he calls himself has always been looking for a father figure, obviously because his father was killed before he was born. He sees him everywhere in images, videos, and stories that his adoptive mother and others tell him. His last name is even a reminder that he rejects for the majority of the film. Apollo's memory looms over him similar to a ghost haunting him. He is always there but never there at the same time. He has always felt rejected by his father and thus by others. His adoptive-mother rejects his ambition to become a boxer. He is rejected by the L.A. boxing academy and he is pushed to the side at the Philadelphia one. He is even initially rejected by Rocky and his eventual love interest, Bianca (Thompson). Even when Rocky gets bad news, he feels rejected when Rocky does not follow his advice to get help. When it is revealed that he is the illegitimate son of Apollo, Donnie is rejected by society so much so that the current champion, Pretty Ricky Conlan (Bellew), thinks he'll be an easy win. He gives Donnie a chance to defend his name. But what is his last name? Donnie rejects Creed but no one sees him by anything else. As he trains for the fight, Donnie gains more and more support from everyone around him. As with all of the Rocky films, the montage concludes his training process but Cooger shows Donnie yelling for the people of Philadelphia to follow him and they do. He now has the support of the people and Rocky. When he gets to Liverpool, he then achieves the support of Bianca and Mary Anne. He has everyone behind him and is ready to fight. He is a Creed no matter what anyone says which even his boxing shorts show this. He is supported by a brilliant cast who play their roles brilliantly.
Stallone is a standout and one scene shows how far he has come as an actor. Most people look at him as an action star (which he is) but he can be something else if he is pushed to it. Donnie's romance with Bianca is as developed and Coogler focuses on this love story as much as Donnie's overall arc. Their introduction feels authentic and how their relationship builds and falls over the course of the film pushes their relationship more than only a supportive woman character. Bianca has a tragic backstory that is used multiple times in the film to show their growth as a couple. Even with Rashad's minimal time on screen, she establishes herself as a caring yet stern mother similar to that of her other famous role, Mrs. Claire Huxtable. Coogler loves showing the audience the reactions of characters whether a punch in the face or a character being hurt emotionally. This allows the audience to connect with them as the film progresses making the conclusion fulfilling.
With a film such as this, one has to wonder does it stand separate from the prior films in the series? With a lot of sequels, the answer is usually no as there are a lot of connections to the prior films. However, this film does stand alone from its predecessors. While some of the characters are from the prior films, this picture states their story in a way that one could watch this film without watching the other films and understand what is going on. If you strip the film of it's "Rocky-ness," what the audience is left with is a father-son story which is something that the initial Rocky film did not have. It is very hard to find a flaw in this film unless one is really looking for it.
This film has a great story, a great tone, a great pace and how Coogler focuses on his characters shows his prowess as a director. When one takes all of that plus a phenomenal cast, the result is a fantastic film that is worth multiple viewings only to appreciate the story, the characters, the acting, and Coogler's ability.
Rating: 5.0/5.0 bowties
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