By Kirk Jackson
After watching the various previews, binge watching the previous installments of the vastly popular, if not critically acclaimed “Rocky” movies, I set my sights on the newest addition to the franchise, “Creed.”
The film starts out with a quick back drop on the star of the film, Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan).
The opening scene dates back to the year 1998, where an orphaned, adolescent boy, moving from one group home to another, winds up beating another adolescent boy twice his size in a juvenile detention center.
It’s apparent the young man is no stranger to throwing his fists and excels combat. Seemingly an inherited trait from his father…
The widow of Apollo Creed, Mary Anne Creed, (Phylicia Rashad) adopts young Adonis, revealing to the young lad who his father truly is.
Flash forward to following scene, which displays the lifestyle of Adonis as an adult.
Fighting fellow up and coming fighters in Mexican arenas, then heading back to his corporate job back in Los Angeles.
One of the early scenes of the movie showcases Adonis Creed watching the first fight between his father Apollo (Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).
As Adonis is watching this classic bout between his father and Rocky Balboa, he begins shadow boxing and appears to be mimicking Balboa; entrapping Apollo in the corner and unleashing combinations.
In this scene, we witness a theme expressed periodically throughout the film; Adonis fighting his father and to some degree fighting himself.
The young character’s struggle to understand his lineage and the fight to embrace it.
This is an ongoing battle for him throughout the entire movie because of how he was conceived; he wants to prove he wasn’t a mistake.
Long story short, Adonis, affectionately known as “Donnie,” intends to make his own mark on the boxing world.
To start out, Donnie hides his lineage using the surname Johnson (his mother’s maiden name).
Seeking guidance and training, Donnie leaves his comfortable lifestyle behind along with his aspiring corporate career.
He travels across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, encountering a talented, aspiring musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and runs into his father’s former nemesis turned best friend, Rocky Balboa.
After some back and forth talk and a little convincing, Rocky eventually decides to train Donnie.
The two have an immediate connection and after some tough training, along with a few other complications and plot twists, Donnie eventually gets a title shot at the lineal light heavyweight champion and pound for pound best fighter ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew).
The fighting sequences appear more realistic compared to previous “Rocky” installments, with the advents of technology in full effect.
The angles provide the viewer an up close view of the action without the distractions of the crowd. You can hear the corner men barking orders; you can see the blood and sweat flying from the impact of punches. You get the sense you’re in a real fight.
It helps real actual trainers and fighters were used in the film.
Current pound for pound standout Andre Ward, cruiserweight title contender Anthony Bellew and middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado make appearances as fictional characters in the film.
Ward’s real life cut man Jacob ‘Stich’ Duran makes an appearance along with other assistant trainers and fighters. Another professional fighter Malik Bizelle, makes an appearance as well.
From the sports media realm, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser and Hannah Storm make cameo appearances.
HBO’s commentary team of Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman help add authenticity to the film, along with the world’s most famous ring announcer, Michael Buffer.
The “24/7” segment narrated by Liev Schreiber, along with all of the other aforementioned sports media elements add more credence to the film.
Another important element is the musical score to the film. The songs were placed properly at key moments, heightening senses and adding the right emotional aspect to each scene.
There’s music from the original “Rocky” film; “Gonna Fly Now” and “Going the Distance.” There’s also a renewed version of the “Rocky” theme, along with hip hop tracks ranging from Tupac’s “Hailmary” to Nas’ “Bridging the Gap” to “Check” from Meek Mill. You’ll even hear the “24/7” boxing theme song.
From a storyline standpoint, “Creed” gives a fresh start to a series that has gone on for about 40 years. In actuality this movie is a sequel, but it stands by itself as a transcendent film.
The movie utilizes pivotal characters from the franchise as a foundation to base the story around, but these long standing and iconic characters are not depended on to carry the narrative.
The character development is on point and the story is short and sweet. The performances from Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are remarkable.
The development of the story is simplistic, but allows for a wide range of avenues to be explored in future films if they decide to continue the series.
The best thing about “Creed” is the ability to connect with audiences. If you’re a boxer, you can relate to elements of the film. If you’re a fan or the “Rocky” series, the nostalgic factor definitely kicks into gear during certain moments of the movie.
If you’ve endured any kind of struggle, you can probably relate to some of the adversities each character combats in this film.
There’s action, drama, suspense, romance and a few comedic elements as well.
The chemistry between Jordan and Stallone is magnetic, with the dynamic of the father/son, teacher/student relationship.
The movie is so good, I watched it twice. The audience was as appreciative as I was, because there was actually a standing ovation when the credits appeared on screen as the movie ended.
This movie is like an old school storyline with a modern twist and was brilliantly executed and worth the price of admission.