“Creed” packs a powerful punch

Tyler Austin and Tyler Austin

“Creed” is a movie I had modest expectations for. I was excited for a new movie in the “Rocky” movie franchise, but I lowered my expectations due to the over inflation of remakes, reboots and sequels of old movie franchises. A few turn out to be great (this year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”), while most turn out to be dreadful to sit through (this year’s “Fantastic Four”). However, “Creed” blew away my expectations to become one of this year’s best films.

“Creed” begins with Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), quitting his financial job in order to pursue a boxing career that his mother, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), is strongly opposed to (she gives a harrowing speech about Apollo Creed’s injuries and eventual death from fighting in the ring). Adonis moves to Philadelphia in hopes of being trained by his father’s old friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky helps Adonis train in order to be an actual contender in professional boxing. Before his first professional fight, Adonis starts a fruitful romantic relationship with his neighbor, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Adonis wins his first professional fight and becomes an overnight sensation when word gets out that he is Creed’s illegitimate son. Rocky and Adonis get a call from the handlers of “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), the world light heavyweight champion. They offer Adonis to be Ricky’s final challenger. Rocky and Adonis train constantly and face their own personal battles.

What makes “Creed” stand out from the mainstream films this year is it is a very human tale about trying to prove yourself to the world, grief and abandonment. Adonis’ goal of getting out of his father’s shadow would not have worked if it was not for Jordan’s excellent performance. His performance brings vulnerability and charm to a character that always acts tough. Sylvester Stallone gives his best performance since, well, the first “Rocky.” He brings an all new dimension to a character we have watched for 40 years. He portrays him as a man who is content with his life and knows he doesn’t have a future because his career as a boxer is far behind him.

I have to mention that director/screenwriter Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti bring realism back to a series that started as a down-to-earth underdog film and became an over-the-top farce later on. Ryan brings the series back to its roots as an underdog story and reminds us why we fell in love with the series in the first place. Alberti does a spectacular job at making the film look realistic and performs fantastic one takes with such perfection that it seems like she can do it in her sleep (look out for one of the best shots of the year during the uninterrupted long take of the first professional fight).

I do have some very minor problems with the film, but they are easy to overlook. I thought some of the product placement was distracting at times (in particular the giant logo of HBO Sports during one scene). Also, I felt the love story was not thought out very well andd did not bring much to the story. However, overall, “Creed” is a superb sports film that anyone can enjoy even if you are not interested in boxing at all.