Director: Ryan Coogler
It’s been an incredible forty years since Rocky Balboa first appeared onto our screens and into our hearts as it became one of the biggest boxing movie franchises in the world. It was a movie that made Sylvester Stallone one of Hollywood’s biggest names, but it might never have happened at all.
As a young actor, Sylvester Stallone came up with the idea, characters and even the script for the first Rocky movie. He showcased the script around Hollywood trying to entice Production Companies to make his movie and it received a lot of interest. There was one snag though. Stallone himself wanted to star in it. His determination to cast himself deterred a lot of Hollywood’s bigwigs as he was an unknown and they wanted an A-list star. Perseverance is one of Stallone’s many strengths though and eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, United Artists agreed and the film became a huge success producing five sequels which have made over $1 billion worldwide.
Stallone’s last outing as Rocky Balboa came ten years ago in the movie of the same name which saw Stallone don the gloves once again at 60 years old. Approaching his seventieth year, this was definitely one that he would not be getting back in the ring for. But for writer/director Ryan Coogler, that was all about to change.
“Creed” is not a Sylvester Stallone film. He had nothing to do with the story or the direction. Infact, he didn’t want to be part of it at all. If not for the persistence of Ryan Coogler, similar to Stallone’s own persistence in 1976, he may not have even been in it.
Adonis Johnson is a young man always getting into trouble. The opening scenes of the movie shows him getting into a fight in a juvenile prison. The fight is broken up and Adonis, who goes by the name “Donnie” throughout the movie receives a visit from a woman who knows a lot about his past. He learns that his father was former heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed and that he had died before he was born. Adonis himself wants to become a boxer, but does not want to bear the weight of the Creed name. Despite living with his father’s wife and wanting for nothing, it’s still not enough for him. Donnie quits his job and moves into an old run down apartment while he attempts to forge a career for himself. And then he meets Rocky Balboa. Rocky is fighting his own battles now and the former world champion looks a shadow of his former self. Still running his restaurant, it is all Balboa has to keep himself busy until he meets Adonis and discovers his true identity. Donnie tries to convince Rocky to train him, but his actions are rebuffed. Donnie, keeping up the theme of the background of the movie shows great persistence and eventually Rocky agrees to coach him as Adonis Johnson aims to make it big.
Many would have had reservations about another Rocky film, but this isn’t another Rocky film. It is the start of a new franchise, a new journey and it’s good. Michael B Jordan had a difficult task filling Rocky’s boots, but these are Adonis Creed’s boots. It would never come close to being like the first Rocky film, but it weighs in well in its own category for want of shoe horning a boxing pun into the context of the review. The ups and downs of Creed’s life are expertly weaved, ducked and dodged by Jordan in a role that is full of expectation. Sylvester Stallone knows Rocky like no other. His role is superb. He is Rocky. It feels almost like Rocky Balboa was cast in this film to play himself and not Sylvester cast as the boxer. You feel sorry for Rocky. He has come so far and lost so much. His dialogue, his character, his persona was almost as if he didn’t have a script. It’s of no surprise that Stallone was awarded a Golden Globe for best supporting actor recently followed up by an Oscar nomination in the same category, he is a remarkable talent. British boxer Tony Bellew, a mad Everton Football Club fan played the opposition in Creed’s first big fight, ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan and for a sportsman who has never acted before, he did very well. Parts of the latter part of the film where filmed in England and in particular in Bellew’s beloved Goodison Park where Everton play their home games.
Ryan Coogler has taken a brave step to not only add another dimension onto a legacy, but to have the fight and persistence to get what he wants. The script plays tribute to the original with some nods of appreciation to the original story and some moments of melancholy as Coogler depicts just how far Rocky has come. The climatic ending befits the original Rocky movie itself as blood races and the heart pumps and then you hear the opening chords of possible one of the most inspiring pieces of music, Gonna Fly Now, the theme synonymous to Rocky playing in the background and even though Rocky’s not exactly back, Adonis Creed is here and with weight to continue this franchise and continue the legacy.