Filmed over the space of a month on a tight budget, 1976’s Rocky gave birth to a cultural phenomenon, with Sylvester Stallone’s titular character emerging as cinema’s most iconic underdog hero. Following a number of sequels with varying degrees of critical and commercial success, we arrive at Creed: the seventh iteration in the now forty year-old franchise, but the first to see Balboa take a back seat. This is a Rocky movie at its core but follows the story of Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s foe-turned-friend Apollo. It’s a significant change for a franchise known for keeping to a tried and tested structure and it’s a change that works; Creed is a fresh new underdog story for the twenty-first century that, despite its flaws, does the series proud.
Stallone’s supporting role in Creed is the film’s greatest strength. He delivers a heartfelt, engaging performance which explores the weaknesses of his character following the passing of his wife. His relationship with the protagonist (Michael B. Jordan) is more complex that one would expect, with Balboa reluctantly taking on the role of mentor. Rocky’s character is explored in a way it never has been before, so if the film proves to be the boxer’s final outing, it’s a fitting finale.
Jordan’s character is less interesting but the rising star performs well on the whole and his story isn’t necessarily a predictable ‘rags-to-riches’ affair; his dissociation with his father Apollo is an interesting addition. His challenger, however, Liverpool champion Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) is far less memorable than the likes of Clubber Laing and Ivan Drago. The choice to cast an actual boxer in the role in favour of authenticity unfortunately backfires, with Conlan feeling unintimidating and nowhere near menacing enough.
Much like The Force Awakens, the film indulges in a number of nostalgic throwbacks to the previous films, but Creed does feel like it wants to try new things and doesn’t get too caught up in the past. Still, it’s nice to have a bit of fan service in such beloved franchises, and there’s one big question in particular that gets answered which fans will love.
Overall, Creed is an enjoyable underdog story that mirrors the original Rocky and gets admirably close to matching it. Stallone steals the show, but there are a handful of decent performances that bring the script to life, and by the final fight, you’ll be firmly rooting for Adonis.
Is it worth watching?
+ New side to Rocky
– Bland antagonist
Watch the trailer for Creed
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