Review: Similar to The Force Awakens, one doesn’t have to be an adept viewer of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky saga to love Ryan Coogler’s Creed. Yet, those who have known ‘The Italian Stallion’ might find Creed familiarly intriguing since it feels nostalgic and fresh at once.
While Rocky Balboa (2009) gives clear-cut indication that Rocky’s tenure as a boxer might completely end after once again proving his prowess in a ring; it turns out Creed gives extra breath for the people’s champ as well as for Stallone by shifting him to the supporting side and exploring some related legacy from the saga’s past instead.
The legacy is Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), a non-legitimate son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s former foe-turned-friend who were killed in a fight against Drago on Rocky IV. And Creed is literally a series of fights to decide what would become of him.
With Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) at helm, the decision-making fights are obviously palpable—poured on the story-telling and on the cinematography as well.
Donnie is wonted to choices since he was a kid, since the moment he’s adopted by Mary Ann (Phylicia Rashad), Apollo’s widow. He grows up as a promising yuppy, but he decided to give it up and choose to fight in a ring as a boxer, instead. Reluctant to bear his father’s name, his goal is only making a way for his own without being under the shadow of a father he has never seen.
This brings him from clamoring L.A. to Philadelphia to get his father’s foe-turned-best-friend, Rocky Balboa, to train him. Despite of Rocky’s rejection and lacks of interest in the beginning, Donnie’s strong will finally reaches Rocky out. They’re bonding quickly in a more than mentor-protege relationship; in Rocky, Donnie meets a father he has never had.
All of this leads to a dream fight for everyone. Donnie gets a shot to fight a British boxing champ, ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), who fancies Everton F.C. to finally prove himself not a fraud, false Creed. Meanwhile, Rocky gets to fight something inside him—something old fans are always afraid of. As much as it’s full of clichés, Creed leads to a fan-service edge for audiences to celebrate.
From the Cinderella story, to the father-like mentor, to a woman of a life—in this case, Bianca (Tessa Thompson)—Creed is like a reflection of Rocky on his first tenure. Yet, Creed finds it new hero with a very complex background to finally juxtapose his original story with Rocky’s and Rocky’s reflection.
Coogler really knows how his story will be projected in Rocky’s universe. He knows what would be of his characters—and one of his best achievement is the casting of Michael B. Jordan. Not only Jordan fits a profile of Creed’s son; he also fits Rocky’s. Jordan victoriously depicts his character’s identity crisis and compulsive behavior in a hyper-realistic nature. Chemistry between Coogler and Jordan isn’t to be questioned as viewed in last year’s Fruitvale Station. Coogler also brings up something more of Stallone, a beautiful things we haven’t seen in a long time or, perhaps, we have just seen.
As I said before, the ‘decision-making’ fight is also swiftly poured on the cinematography. Maryse Alberti’s dynamic cinematography is dominating every scene and it’s more apparent on more conflicting scenes, culminating in two favorite scenes. The first one is that one-take boxing fight in the ring is among most perfect shots this year as it’s not only thrilling but also emotional. The second is the shot from Philadelphia Museum; not only it’s beautiful, it’s also an emotional one—for fans of Rocky and for new viewers.
All in all, Creed might look like a banal sport drama who takes advantages from Rocky‘s fame in the beginning. As it turns out, it weighs more than that; it transforms as a love letter to Rocky saga to an genuine backlash that strikes hard to lacrimal gland. In the end, Adonis Creed finally raises from his father’s shadow; similarly, Creed moves out from Rocky‘s glory and finally stands on its own as one of the most beautiful movies in 2015.
Drama, Sport Directed by: Ryan Coogler Written by: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington (Screenplay), Sylvester Stallone (Story) Starred by: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad Runtime: 133 mins Rated PG-13
Image courtesy: IMDb