By Connor Smith
Director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler has reinvigorated the “Rocky” franchise with a surprisingly heartfelt spin-off centered around Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, in the new film, “Creed.”
“Creed” tells the story of a young Creed, who was adopted by his father’s widow after bouncing between foster homes and juvenile detention centers. Creed always displayed an eagerness to fight, which was a major concern for his adopted mother. Creed, now in his 20s, put aside his lavish lifestyle to pursue his own dream of being a fighter like his father.
Creed struggles to be taken seriously, as most trainers refuse to give his dream a chance. Determined, Creed seeks out his father’s closest friend and rival, Rocky Balboa, in an effort to learn from the boxing legend.
Although Balboa is initially reluctant, Creed’s persistence pays off and the two develop a relationship that is the centerpiece of the film.
The relationship between Balboa and Creed is both compelling and sincere. As Balboa transitions into the fatherly figure that Creed was missing his entire life, Creed helps fill the void in Balboa’s heart left by the loss of his friends and family.
Creed also develops a romantic interest with an up-and-coming musician, Bianca. Their relationship is rocky at first, but eventually blossoms into a worthwhile romance.
Although the film implores a number of clichés and common film tropes, the characters are what makes this film so appealing. Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of an aged and worn-out Rocky Balboa is some of his finest work to date. Almost all of his interactions with Creed are meaningful and Balboa is a walking illustration of the finite nature of time itself.
Throughout the film, Creed’s perseverance is rewarded while Rocky’s sagely guidance helps Creed mature as a boxer.
When commentators learn of the true identity of Creed — who had been using his mother’s surname, Johnson — he is offered a title shot against the world champion boxer, Ricky Conlan, in an effort to generate revenue by advertising the Creed name.
Creed struggles to make a name for himself, as he constantly is living in the shadow of his father. It is his fiery passion for fighting that ultimately carves a path for himself.
The film also discusses the undeniable hardships boxers must endure, such as brain damage, injuries and emotional pain.
“Creed” manages to sprinkle nods to the original “Rocky” movies while still maintaining a strong sense of independence. Creed’s character is well realized and his struggles are relatable, despite his fortunate upbringing.
In the end, “Creed” is a labor of love from start to finish. From the writing to the acting, the charm of the original “Rocky” is well represented, while still managing to set itself apart with a modern awareness and unique characters. Rocky fans will be pleased to see a film that recaptures the magic of the Academy Award winning film. With that said, it will be interesting to see how Coogler handles the demand for a “Creed” sequel.
One thing, however, is for sure — Stallone’s magnum opus is in the hands of talented, dedicated individuals.