Creed, essentially a Rocky spin-off/reboot, is actually not a bad piece of work. Yes, the Rocky sequels became increasingly ludicrous (with Rocky III being the only one to progress the story in an interesting way), but this film proves that a dead horse can occasionally be flogged into a satisfactory resurrection.
The plot here concerns the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis (Michael B Jordan), who uses the surname Johnson rather than Creed because he wants to create his own legacy as a boxer. After a tumultuous childhood in which he was in and out of juvenile detention centres, Adonis is eventually adopted by Apollo’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), and later crosses paths with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in an attempt to get the Italian Stallion to train him for professional matches. Of course Rocky at first refuses, but inevitably…
Yes, you get the idea. The plot beats of the first Rocky come back into play, only this time with Rocky proving a great mentor, as well as Adonis finding love with singer Bianca (the wonderful Tessa Thompson). Thematically this is very familiar stuff, with triumph of the underdog woven in with the other themes that really made the original film so special, ie courage, forgiveness, never quitting and all manner of inspirational metaphors about boxing that apply to life. Yes it’s clichéd, but it works. On a spiritual level, what I liked most about this film is that it is a story about a man trying to prove that he “isn’t a mistake”.
Director Ryan Coogler tips his hat to the past just the right amount, whilst making sure Creed has just enough new ideas to make it its own beast. There is some good location work, and the fight scenes as ever are very well staged. The cast are all good, and like the film’s predecessors, there is some good use of music to punctuate the fights, training montages and so on.
Ultimately, whilst Creed is unlikely to make anyone’s top five boxing movies, it is a very solid, satisfying reboot worthy of its association with Rocky, and well worth a look for fans of the genre.