Wrath of the Titans.
Batman and Robin.
These are all sequels that didn’t need to be made, but were made nonetheless, to the detriment of film goers across the globe.
Creed didn’t need to be made. The Rocky films that came before it (the film is well and truly a tie-in to the saga) are mostly revered, and 2006’s Rocky Balboa did better than anyone could have hoped for, delivering a fitting conclusion to the story of a man who makes Bane sound like an English scholar.
Like the aforementioned films, Creed was made nonetheless. Unlike those other films, however, Creed does a commendable job of not only strengthening the legacy of what came before it, but standing strongly on its own two feet.
Indeed, the main character himself can be seen as an embodiment of the film. Adonis Johnson is a man who is born from greatness (his father Apollo Creed a champion in boxing lore), but determined to attain greatness on his own merits, not content with the automatic respect that comes with the name ‘Creed’.
While never achieving greatness, the film well and truly earns respect, and a sigh of relief from all who thought this could go terribly, terribly wrong.
Much of this is thanks to the performances of Michael B Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, although the strength of these performances are for two very different reasons.
Jordan, known for his gripping performance in Fruitvale Station (also directed by Ryan Coogler), brings an imposing physique and unbridled emotion to the role of Adonis. He makes you believe there’s a troubled past and unresolved daddy issues beneath his rippled exterior, and the film’s focus on his character arc is all the more enjoyable because of it.
Stallone, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite. His laconic persona hides the despair he harbours at his core, having nothing and no one to truly live for anymore, resigned to living in the shade of his legacy, forever haunted by his decision not to stop the fight that ultimately claimed Apollo Creed’s life.
The performances of these two leads anchor the film, and save it from being a stale and emotionless cash grab at fans of the film’s predecessors.
A boxing movie at its core, Creed‘s worth is heavily reliant on the strength of the boxing sequences themselves, and it’s here director Ryan Coogler shines. Gone is the shaky cam too evident in boxing movies, allowing for perhaps the most uncompromising look at the sport in any of the Rocky films thus far. One fight in particular is constructed to look like it all takes place in one shot, making the fight all the more engrossing and impactful. Coogler truly makes viewers feel like they’re right in the ring with the combatants, and delivers arguably the best fight sequences in the series.
Of course, like its main characters, Creed isn’t perfect. Attempts at an engrossing romantic arc fall short, with Tessa Thompson’s ‘Bianca’ underused near the end of the film, causing the progression of the relationship to seemingly stop after a certain point. Furthermore, some of the lines are laughable in their cheesiness, going beyond the point of sly (no pun intended) callbacks to the original films, instead becoming ways for the writers to scream ‘Hey guys, Rocky exists in this universe!’ Finally, and one of the only times the film’s predecessors work against it, the film’s opening, development and conclusion are as predictable as any film you’re likely to see.
Nonetheless, Creed succeeds in spite of these shortcomings, providing a film powerful in the ring and emotionally potent outside of it.
If you’re a Rocky fan, this is a no brainer. The appearance of The Italian Stallion after nearly ten years will be enough to give you a nerdgasm in the theatre. But, if you’ve never understood why some people randomly yell ‘Adriannnnnnnnnn!!!!’, Creed offers a moviegoing experience that’s captivating without relying on previous success, and that’s perhaps its greatest triumph.
Rating – 3.5 / 5
Creed is released on 26 November in Australia and 25 November in the US
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson