Creed (2015, Ryan Coogler)

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I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I finally got around to watching the latest spin-off to the Rocky collection during a recent long-haul flight. ‘Creed’ brings the Rocky journey up to a grand total of seven feature-length films. It is fair to say that usually by the third or fourth film in movie series, the plotline has virtually disapparated! That was certainly the case with Rocky 5 (awful) and also to an extent with the sixth instalment, Rocky Balboa, which failed to wow at the box office.

Sylvester Stallone has admitted himself that he believed Rocky had been ‘put to bed’ at the end of the sixth film, and was reluctant to awaken him. That was, until a little known filmmaker named Ryan Coogler (the same talented producer behind the award-winning, Fruitvale Station) came to him with a script, which proposed a spin off from the aging boxers tale. And thus, ‘Creed’ was born.

The film’s protagonist this time around is a young man named Adonis (Michael B. Jordan). Described as ‘a good kid who just fights all the time’, he was orphaned at a young age and placed in a young offender’s institute,where he was forced to sit on a mountain of grief and anger. His future initially looks bleak, but his life is changed entirely when he receives a visit from a wealthy lady named Mary Anne. She reveals to Adonis that he is the illegitimate son of her late husband, who just so happens to be Rocky legend, Apollo Creed! Mary Anne adopts Adonis and raises him as if he were her own. His life goes from rags to riches overnight, as he begins to reap the wealth and benefits left from his father’s legacy.

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Despite his life being opened up to a window of opportunities and advancements, Adonis can’t help but shake the feeling that all the materialistic stuff is not for him. He still houses a lot of anger that he needs to offload. He soon finds that release in boxing. Adonis fights for the pain and the realness that it brings. Aspiring to follow in his father’s footsteps, he seeks out his old sparring partner – Rocky Balboa.

Balboa has since retired from the fight, and is content running a dingy cocktail bar in Philadelphia, unsurprisingly named ‘Adrian’s’. He initially rejects Adoni’s requests to be trained, but after a little bit of emotional blackmail, he agrees to take on the task as an ode to his former friend.

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This is where the hard work begins. Adonis is confident, cocky and reckless all at once, but the aging champ does not shy away from putting him through his paces; from synchronized skipping routines, to live chicken chases! As with the original Rocky movies, the training montage scenes will make you feel like going ten rounds with a punching bag at the gym.

Adonis starts out as the underdog, keen to create his own legacy. When it is inevitably leaked that he is the secret son of Apollo Creed, he quickly gathers interest in the boxing world, notably from the world number one, Ricky Connelly (played by real-life boxer and two-time world title challenger, Tony Bellew). The bad boy scouse scrapper is pitted against young Creed, for what it destined to be the fight of his career.

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The build-up to the fight, the commentary and even the profiles of the fictional boxers who appear in the film, are delivered in such a believable and authentic fashion that you would be forgiven for thinking that you were watching ESPN or HBO sport. The fight scenes themselves are also frighteningly realistic, with fast, close-up camera shots used to capture every nose crunching moment.

Veteran Rocky fans should note that ‘Creed’ is not merely a follow on from Rocky Balboa. This is Adonis’ story, with Balboa featuring as a supporting figure. That is not to say, however, that Stallone’s legendary character does not get his own scene time. Now older and wiser, Rocky develops a paternal attachment to the young man he affectionately calls ‘Donny’. His feelings stem from the respect he holds for Donny’s father, as well as his own experience of the ruthless world of boxing.

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Late in the film, Rocky receives some news regarding his health which forces him to re-evaluate his outlook on life. Once bitter for the loves he has lost and too proud to accept the help of others, Adonis teaches him to fight again. I really enjoyed getting to witness this softer side to the tough-guy, macho bravado we are all familiar with when we think of Rocky, and whilst I initially scoffed at Sylvester Stallone’s supporting actor win at the Golden Globes, I can now appreciate it worthiness.

Another convincing relationship to emerge from the film is the one between Adonis and his love interest, Bianca (as played by Tessa Thompson). Jordan and Thompson are electrifying together. If they are not already a couple, someone needs to make that happen fast!

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All in all, ‘Creed’ is a story of inner strength and finding acceptance. For anyone put off by the Rocky association, don’t be. ‘Creed’ is fresher, with a firmer storyline and an exciting new cast, which reaches new dynamics and generations. For long-time Rocky fans, this is the revamp that the franchise needed to bring it into the 21rst century, without disrespecting the original 70s & 80s classics

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