"Creed" Review: Embracing the Legacy while Charting New Territory

When I was a kid I used to watch Rocky on VHS over and over until the tape wore out. I would work out with Rocky during the training montages in Rocky IV, and I could probably still quote not just the dialogue, but the sound effects in the fights and montages as well. So when it comes to Creed, I know that I’m not alone in thinking that the new film has to stand on it’s own, while honoring the past. Folks, the torch has been passed, and Creed goes the distance! 

Michael B. Jordan is Adonis “Donny” Johnson, son of the late champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). While he never met his father, fighting is in his blood. Whether fighting other kids in foster homes, juvenile detention, or fighting the feeling of illegitimacy, Donny’s life starts out on a fast track to nowhere. His father’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), steps in and helps save him from the system.

While his new life trajectory puts him in a more affluent position, his thirst to fight is still unquenched. Fighting underground in Mexico on occasional weekends, Donny wants to take a real stab at professional boxing in the States but no one will train him. He turns to Philadelphia, to find Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), hoping to find not just a trainer but perhaps answers to questions about his father from the Italian Stallion as well.

From there, the story writes itself, following the underdog layout of films before with themes of determination, romance, struggle, and the will to overcome against odds. This new story is told beautifully however, and performed by a skilled cast. Sylvester Stallone has lived with the character he penned for over three decades now and it shows in his performance. The history of Rocky is on his face, and the relationships he’s had and lost (Apollo, Adrian (Talia Shire), Paulie (Burt Young)) can be heard in his speech. Michael B. Jordan gives an absolutely stellar show as Adonis. Both his physical transformation and his internal struggle as Donny, blend together to create a genuine character that the audience can get behind. 

Coming off of Fruitvale Station, co-writer/director Ryan Coogler understands how to boil down a big story to an intimate character drama. With the weight of the Rocky franchise, Creed could have been an epic story that’s all pomp and no heart. Instead, Coogler finds the root of the underdog theme of the franchise and creates beautiful character moments in an ultimately well crafted story. 

Creed is a love letter to both the films of the past, and more importantly the essence of what has made the franchise endure in the hearts of fans globally for years! It won’t disappoint. So after you finish eating turkey and all the fixings, wake up and make sure you head out to the local theater for the main event!

Rating: A

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.