Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler, is a film that is perfectly balanced on every aspect of consideration. This is a film that is tasked with honouring the original Rocky films, while also beginning a new franchise of films. Amazingly with the inclusion of multiple new aspects to the franchise, Creed is a film that sets up a whole new generation to the beloved boxing films, and also delivers something that by itself it truly special. If you were to have never seen the previous films from the timeline, Creed would be a film that could almost stand on its own as an undeniably brilliant piece of cinema.
The story of Creed sees Adonis Johnson (Adonis Creed), played by Michael B. Jordan, be the unknown son of the best boxer in history, Apollo Creed. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps (whom he never had the chance to meet) Adonis wishes to reach and perhaps surpass his father in the world of boxing. Only with the help of the dubious Rocky Balboa, played of course by Sylvester Stallone, can Adonis not only achieve the level of training he needs, but complete the goal that he so desperately wishes.
What amazes me the most about Creed is that with a film that has so much to set up and develop for the audience, is then how much the film is able to achieve in its 2 hour and 10 minute run time. Director Ryan Coogler had the difficult task of blending the old and new. The film needed to serve those little nostalgia bursts of the classic Rocky films, and at the same time it needed to introduce a whole new generation of people to the franchise with the setting up of a new character and his journey to a boxing icon. The film more than pulls this off, and I can’t think of a single moment where I didn’t feel like I was getting a little of the old serviced, while also learning about the new.
At the head of it all this time is Michael B. Jordan as the unknown son of Apollo Creed. Jordan is an actor who I’ve always enjoyed seeing on screen – especially in his first screen outing with director Ryan Coogler in Fruitvale Station. So I was more than excited to see the two of them team up again, and for a spiritual Rocky sequel none the less. To put it bluntly Michael B. Jordan does not miss a beat in this film. From his first scene on screen he has a presence to him that just makes you want to watch him. There is such weight and emotion to his performance and rooting for him and wanting to tag along with him on his journey is a no brainer. He is certainly the right choice for the new head of the most well-known boxing film franchise and to see him and his character evolve going forward is something to look forward to. My only annoyance is that he hasn’t received any love during this year’s award season – an oversight if I’ve ever seen one.
Returning is of course Sylvester Stallone as Rocky and to once again put it bluntly he is brilliant. This is a character that Sly understands (he did create him after all) and so he knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to this character. He still makes Rocky feel relevant in a time where a lot of people have either never heard of the character or have forgotten about him, and while he’s not exactly playing a character that stretches his acting abilities to the limits, he still brings a lot of heart to the role, and the bond that grows between him and Adonis Creed is something that absolutely works. The humour and the emotional understanding between these two characters are apparent early on and it only grows and improves as it goes on.
Oh also, for those doubting Sylvester Stallone and his wins for best supporting actor… maybe go see the film first and then decide whether he deserves it or not. For me there’s no maybe about it, he does.
Now one thing that was lacking for me in Creed is the lack of any substantial antagonist in the film. Creed is a film that offers up so much and so it’s a shame that when it comes to the opponents that Adonis must face, there is a noticeable dip in character quality. The problem is that none are ever given suitable development, nor are we given any real sense of just how dangerous they might be. Tony Bellew plays ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (perhaps the least prettiest man ever but okay) and while his performance is fine, there isn’t really any reason for the audience to fear his ability as a boxer nor is there much reason given for us to dislike him and want desperately to see him lose, other than the fact that he’s Adonis Creed’s opponent. While the lack of a threatening opponent was disappointing it in no way ruins the inevitable fights that come along – which is something I’ll dive into in a minute because goddamn are they good.
Continuing the point of just how much Creed as a film is an achievement in balancing all of its elements to a near faultless level – there are the things that happen outside and away from all the training and the fighting… life of course. Mainly the life of Adonis Creed who like I said has a great friendship with Rocky, but on top of that Adonis also embarks on a new relationship. Now at first I was worried that this element of the film would be the tedious element that we’d have to suffer through so we could get back to the meaty stuff. That is far from the case because like everything else in Creed it is given the chance to grow and become its own little side bar of enjoyment. The character Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, is on her own an interesting character. Bianca is slowly losing her hearing and so wants to make sure she enjoys every moment of her passion, which is music. This is what continues to elevate Creed as a film – I could have easily watched a whole side film on Bianca and her life, her struggles. Creed is a film that somehow keeps throwing new and engaging elements into its film and then actually sees them through. This isn’t just a film that from a cinematic standpoint is brilliant it also goes ahead and offers up characters and a story that for me personally was unflinchingly engaging and a joy to watch.
Creed also isn’t a film that is happy to just settle for great characters and a great story, Creed is also a film that is masterfully constructed and joyfully executed. Director Ryan Coogler and his team offer up a film that film geeks like me get sticky and excited for. Beautifully shot, brilliantly edited, has a score/soundtrack that elevates scenes and turns them into something more than they already were – Coogler nails the technical side of the film as well (it almost doesn’t seem fair).
No I have to talk about Coogler and how he executes some of the most important scenes in a film like this, the boxing scenes. I’ve been enjoying the whole blunt thing so far so I’ll continue that by saying that the films boxing scenes in particular are superb. The one that immediately jumps out to me is when Adonis is having is first legitimate match and Coogler not being one to make things easy on him or his actors, shoots the entire fight in one take. It pulls you deeper into the fight, it elevates (there’s that word again) the moment and ultimately just highlights the talent that Ryan Coogler has as a director. I couldn’t believe it when I was watching it, and after it was done I almost wanted to stand up and applaud I loved it so much.
What Coogler also does with his camera is he never does anything that seems unnecessary with it. There are scenes where he will leave it following the character, no cuts, no jumping to an ulterior angle; he just allows the scene to play out. It’s refreshing and it only serves to bring your attention closer to the film. But Coogler also gets the camera in close and isn’t afraid to throw it around a little – particularly in the boxing sequences’. If our main character falls over the camera goes down there with him, if the two fighters are putting some distance between each other he throws that camera in between them quickly. As a director Ryan Coogler went out of his way to make Creed a film that you don’t want to look away from, and to do so would be a disservice to the film. I’ve already said this about Michael B. Jordan, but that Ryan Coogler is not receiving any recognition during award season is idiotic and a mistake on their part.
I want to close out by saying that Creed is truly a special film. I’m fine with saying that this film got to me in a way that meant I welled up once or twice. There are scenes in this film that feel like important events on their own, and they are scenes that are certainly goose bump inducing and also emotionally they are scenes that just take over and command every ounce of your attention. Add to that music that is in some way always there and at no point ever out of place.
Creed is a film with so much brilliance in it. As you can probably guess by this point I loved this film a lot and even though we are only one month into 2016 is certainly the film to beat right now in terms of my favourite.
You’re damn right I’m recommending Creed. What a film… what a film.
I’d love to know what you thought of Creed so leave any and all comments down below. If you want to keep up to date with my other reviews then Twitter is the best place to do that – @GavinsTurtle. Last but certainly not least have a great weekend.