By Adam Ray Palmer
40 years ago, Rocky won the ‘Best Picture’ award at the Oscars in 1976. This led to five sequels with the last one being in 2006. Now, in 2016, Rocky Balboa returns but in a spin off film.
Creed is the ‘seventh’ movie in the Rocky franchise starring Michael B. Jordan as the titular character. Sylvester Stallone returns as the famous boxer once again but this time in the role of a boxing coach.
Creed is trying to branch out and be a standalone film, but does it succeed in doing so? It has the old guard in Sly, the fresh talent in Michael and also an up and coming director championing its cause.
Creeds premise follows the son of Apollo Creed trying to find his own career in boxing. He enlists in his late father’s friend and rival, former World Heavyweight Champion, Rocky Balboa to be his trainer and mentor.
There is three ‘firsts’ in this movie when comparing it to the franchise. It’s the first to drop ‘Rocky’ from its title, it is the first feature to be over two hours and also, more importantly, the first one not to have any input from Stallone on the script. Director Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington are credited with that praise. The dialogue is a lot more poignant and sharp compared to previous outings. Stallone’s words have more depth and emotion with lines like “time takes everyone out, it’s undefeated”. This is also echoed in Sly’s performance as it is his best for decades. He’s been rewarded with a Golden Globe for his turn so there is the evidence.
The main star in Creed I think is the director Ryan Coogler. He near enough makes an alternative Rocky movie with Adonis Creed (Jordan) being the underdog. Even from the first few scenes, we see a prologue set in a juvenile detention hall where the camera pans down a hallway, into a room where two kids are fighting. One of them is clearly a young Adonis and this strikes a chord for the whole movie of how Adonis has battled ever since he can remember.
Another highlight of Coogler’s talent is when he tells the audience of Creed’s struggles adapting to a family life from a fighting life. We see the young fighter victorious in an underground Tijuana fight which is a brutal and gritty scene, but then instantaneously, the camera cuts to Jordan sitting in an office, wearing a tie and a nice shirt. This, along with the opening scene, relays the message of an underdog story whilst also showing us Adonis’ frustration with his life’s path.
Michael B. Jordan has worked with Coogler before on the 2013 indie flick Fruitvale Station. The pair clearly work well together as Michael flourishes under Coogler’s direction. Two scenes in particular in Creed (the locker sequence and the prison cell scene) are riveting, emotive but also visceral. Jordan will be making a name for himself with performances like this one. It’s mature and professionally executed.
The gritty indie feel to this film is a great departure from the usual style of the Rocky franchise. This is another ‘throw-off’ from that series to help Creed stand on its own. It’s raw and powerful with exquisite boxing sequences. There are some expert tracking shots with singular camera work that are topped off by a mixture of fast cuts and slow-mo sequences – it is like the audience is in the ring.
Plot-wise, it is all straight forward. Creed applies itself to the same formula that Rocky has cemented in the past but it offers a little more coarseness. The franchise has moved on and this film realises that. Coogler’s sees the movement of the franchise and replicates this with added elements. Components like a training montage, freeze-frames and displaying a boxer’s background and statistics demonstrate this. Creed is so much better than I think it actually thinks it is. It’s been 40 years since Rocky 1 and it still connects with audiences – that is a great testament to the talented director.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Creed is released this Friday (22nd January) worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 12A