Creed: a new legacy begins
Rocky Balboa. The Italian Stallion. The Pride of Philly. In 1976, action legend Sylvester Stallone introduced us to the bumbling, gentle giant who would go on to become the ultimate underdog. Cemented in cinema history, Rocky went on to spawn several sequels of varying quality, from camp theatricality in the 80s to OAP title fights in the 2000s. To put it simply, the Rocky series is a mixed bag, with sequels overflowing. So the news of Creed’s release was mostly met with a groan. Luckily, in true Rocky style, it’s proved the doubters wrong.
Creed introduces us to Adonis Creed, played by talented up-and-comer Michael B Jordan. He is the illegitimate love-child of Rocky’s old opponent and friend, Apollo Creed. Adonis’ own desire to be a boxing champ brings him to the doorstep of the aged Balboa, seeking guidance from the legendary champion. Adonis wants nothing more than to step out of his father’s shadow and be his own man. Emotions, punches and sports clichés ensue.
Writer and director Ryan Coogler fills the film with the grey cold of Philadelphia, the bright lights of boxing arenas, and the blood, sweat and nervous shits that come with chasing your dreams. Jordan, well on his way to the A-list, puts in a superb performance, and Stallone wears the Rocky visage with ease. After all, Stallone is Rocky. Frankly, he should only ever play Rocky.
Creed brings the Rocky series back to its essence – before it became a running joke. Like the original, it’s more than just a boxing movie – the training, the punches and bloody noses are there to illuminate the characters. That being said, the fights on display are brutal and exhilarating – a particular highlight being two rounds which are filmed in one, continuous take.
Ultimately, this is a film about legacy. Creed manages to pay homage while stepping out on its own. Much like Adonis’ desire both to follow in his father’s footsteps and step out of his shadow, this film wants to slot into the series while carving out a new one. The steps scene, the inevitable montage and the Rocky theme are used sparingly – with just enough to make you nostalgic without it falling into pastiche.
With a fresh face, but with all the emotional punch of the originals, Creed could well be the beginning of a new legacy.
Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.
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