Movie Review – Creed (2016)

Director: Ryan Coogler

Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson,  Tony Bellew, Andre Ward, Phylicia Rashad

After a troubled childhood, the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis (Jordan) tries to forge his own path under his own name. When he decides to become a fighter he turns to his father’s legendary opponent and best friend, Rocky Balboa (Stallone).  As Jordan struggles to create his own legacy and step out of his father’s shadow, the two men form an unlikely bond and teach each other some valuable lessons.

I know this came out in America last year but it’s going to be released next week in  the UK, and I saw a preview screening of it at Cineworld last night. If you haven’t yet, go and check out my Top Ten Anticipated Movies of the year, although spoiler alert, this one  was high on the list. And now that I’ve seen it I’m verrrrry confident that this will be on my top ten of the year list.

I’m a huge fan of the Rocky series and this seems like the perfect direction in which to take it. The idea that Apollo had a son who is trying to come to terms with never knowing his father, and then turning to Rocky for training seems so natural that it wouldn’t surprise me had it been planned  since Rocky IV. Both actors are great in their roles, I mean, Stallone has obviously inhabited Rocky for a number of years, and I know people love Rambo and see him as an action star but I think Rocky is the role that’s synonymous with him. Jordan is admittedly a better actor than Stallone, and this is very much his story.

I enjoyed the way the emotional layers of his character were peeled back, and the way he struggled with how other people perceived him. I thought he did a good job of echoing some of the swagger of Apollo, but also the determination of Rocky, and although they were not biologically related I found their relationship touching, especially with the difficulties that Rocky has had with his own son. And for Rocky it’s a chance to feel needed again. Adrian has been dead for a number of years, and by the time of Creed Paulie has passed away as well. The famed boxer looks and feels tired, but comes alive again.

The film doesn’t trade too much on nostalgia (which I think was a failing of some of the blockbusters of last year) but there are nice callbacks to the other films that fans will appreciate, and I like the fact that Creed very much creates its own characters and its own world without feeling like it’s just remaking Rocky or retreading old ground. The love story is good and I feel Thompson and Jordan have good chemistry, and although their relationship  was a bit of a rollercoaster I felt invested in it.

The direction was astounding. The fight scenes were brutal, and the camera was so intimate that it felt like I was in the ring with the fighters, and there were more than a few times where I was wincing and cheering, willing Adonis on. But there are some other nice touches as well, like how a card comes up to introduce each fighter and their record when they first appear, and the entrance of Adonis’ opponent at the end is fearsome and very much a spectacle.

And the music. Obviously everyone is going to be waiting for Gonna Fly Now and it is evoked a number of times before it comes in full, as are some other familiar cues from the other films, but they’re mixed in with some fresh songs that again help the give the film  its own identity.

I think this film is phenomenal. It had me pumped up, it had me invested in the characters and it’s able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best films in the franchise. I can see a couple of directions for the sequel and I am already getting excited for that. This year is going to be a big one for movies and with Creed it’s off to a damn fine start.

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