Franchise reinvigoration is something that is attempted quite often these days. Whether it’s reboots like Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond or the Christopher Nolan Batman series or nostalgia sequels like Jurassic World or the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, everyone is trying to cash in on franchises through as many ways possible. Despite the greed that definitely influences these decisions, the final product does turn out to be quite good in most cases. That is definitely the case with Creed, an example of franchise reinvigoration unlike anything else. The job that director and co-writer Ryan Coogler does with this film is astounding. By building a thrilling story that stands on its own on top of a ground breaking portrayal of an iconic cinematic character, Coogler gives us one of the most unique films of the year.
Creed follows Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) as he decides to start a professional career in boxing. With those in Los Angeles refusing to take him on as a trainee, Adonis goes to Philadelphia where he struggles with accepting his heritage as the son of Apollo Creed and trains with the legendary Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). While the addition of Rocky Balboa into this storyline would in theory seem like a terrible way to get more people into seats, it actually strengthens the film. As a sequel in the Rocky franchise, this film works really well as it gives us only a few homages to the other films and instead spends most of its time creating a new storyline for Rocky that gives Sylvester Stallone some incredible material to work with. I don’t think anyone has taken an iconic character on this level on the route that Ryan Coogler takes Rocky on in this film. At the same time the main storyline of the film, as Adonis comes to terms with his past and tries to become a professional boxer, works entirely on its own. This film would still work really well without Rocky, and you can’t say that for most films like this. The fact that this film strays away from playing on the audience’s nostalgia is really impressive. The only time it really gets truly nostalgic is during the final fight, which ultimately is the only weak point of the film.
Coogler isn’t the only one who deserves credit for the success of Creed as Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Maryse Alberti all do impressive work as well. Michael B. Jordan has always played short fused firecrackers well, but this seems like a much more intimate portrayal of that type of character. He truly feels like he belongs next to the likes of an iconic character like Rocky. Speaking of which, Stallone might deliver the performance of his career here, as his raw portrayal of an aging Rocky makes him stretch his range to a degree that he hasn’t showcased before. Meanwhile, Maryse Alberti brings some truly stunning sights to the screen. His work during the fight scenes (especially the one-take middle fight scene that is the standout of the film) is impressive and unlike anything we’ve seen before, which is quite surprising because we have seen so many boxing scenes on the screen over the years.
Creed is one of the most fascinating sequels ever.