Release date: 15th January 2016/Watch the trailer here
Okay. Confession time. I have never seen a Rocky film in my life (apart from Creed). Another confession: I hate sports films (oh, apart from Southpaw).
So, if I’m rather unfamiliar with the Rocky universe and not a sports fan, why did I even bother going to see Creed? Good question. I’d heard great things about it. I’m a fan of Michael B. Jordan. I like to give films a chance. Plus, I’d heard a really lovely story about how this film came to be.
You may be familiar with Creed‘s writer and director, Ryan Coogler. He’s only 29, and he’s the guy behind the critically-acclaimed Fruitvale Station. There are rumours that he’ll be directing Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther movie. As a kid growing up in the 90s, Coogler used to watch the Rocky films with his dad, and saw something of himself in the character of Apollo Creed at a time when black characters in films were hard to come by. So he came up with the idea for Creed. He wrote a script. He pitched it to Sylvester Stallone. Stallone said no. He teamed up with Michael B. Jordan and made Fruitvale Station. He pitched Creed to Stallone again. This time, he said yes. And if that isn’t an uplifting story of a young man working hard to pursue his dream, then I don’t know what is.
I enjoyed Creed a lot more than I expected to. I expected it to be like Southpaw – Just Another Boxing Movie. Admittedly, it is a lot like Southpaw – except it’s better. It has a heart. It has a main character that you find yourself rooting for, and that’s very important.
The film follows Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, Adonis moves to Philadelphia, where he meets a beautiful girl by the name of Bianca (Tessa Thompson), falls in love, and enlists the help of his father’s former friend, Stallone’s iconic character, Rocky Balboa, who agrees to mentor Adonis.
The relationship between Johnson and Balboa is heartwarming. Jordan and Stallone have fantastic chemistry, forming a father-son bond that is far from cliché and delivering impressive, awards-worthy performances (particularly in Stallone’s case, who continues to sweep up the Best Supporting Actor gongs, while Jordan is sadly overlooked). This relationship is arguably the most significant aspect of the film, much more so than the romantic subplot, or the boxing itself.
Saying that, the fights are gripping – and this is coming from someone who couldn’t know less about boxing if I tried. One boxing sequence in particular has become famous for being a ‘oner’ – a scene shot in an extended single take. Yes, that entire two-round boxing match was expertly, excitingly captured by cinematographer Maryse Alberti in just one take. I was on the edge of my seat. Combined with a fantastic, rousing soundtrack, it’s scenes such as this which surely make Creed one of the most exhilarating films you’re likely to see in 2016.
I can’t compare Creed to any of the other films in the Rocky franchise, but I’ve heard from those more educated in their boxing films that it’s the best since the original – the perfect tribute to Stallone’s legacy, while setting up a whole new Adonis Creed franchise. What I can say, however, is that Creed made me care. I cared about its characters. I cared about the outcome of a sports match for the first time in my life – and that’s an achievement in itself.