HOLLYWOOD—Are you feeling a bit of “Rocky” fatigue? Looking for that perfect and inspiring boxing movie that inspires hope in your life? Well, look no further than “Creed.” Could some consider the new flick from “Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler an underdog tale that will leave you inspired? Certainly.
The tale while not a sequel in the “Rocky” franchise, certainly feels like an evolution in the series. This time around the narrative follows Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson, the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. Jordan tackles a character that is somewhat an enigma in the beginning.
A troubled youth, growing up without a father, dealing with the death of his biological mother, this is a guy whose life seems all over the place., that is until he meets Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad).
Mary Anne takes Donnie in and raises him. She gives him a life that some would say is pretty sweet. He has a job at a top notch securities firm, but throws that all away to pursue a dream of being a professional boxer. This is where things are slightly funky in the narrative. The audience doesn’t get a clear cut reasoning behind WHY Donnie chooses to pursue such a daunting feat. It’s not like he really knew his dad growing up beyond the fact that he died in the boxing ring. Could this be his opportunity to connect with his father on a spiritual level? Yeah, that argument can be made, but I see that as a bit of a stretch to be honest.
In his journey to become a boxer, Adonis befriends Apollo’s former friend, and boxing great Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Like that previous installment in the “Rocky” franchise, Stallone looks quite beat-up, slightly defeated and just doing his best to survive. He is a bit hesitant to train his former foe turned ally’s son, but works to turn a small town boxer into a worldwide name.
What works so well for “Creed’ is that it delivers a new wave of the boxing flick to the audience; we’ve seen time and time again a boxer who is at the height of his career lose everything and be forced to fight his way back to the top. This time around, it’s a boxer who has nothing to prove, nothing to gain, but works tirelessly to attain something that his father did. As a spectator you root for Jordan’s character, his struggle becomes your struggle and all the players assisting or halting his dream you identify with.
There are moments in the movie where it becomes apparent that Coogler is doing his best to give that token wink at the original 1975 classic starring Stallone himself. At moments it works, at other times it seems slightly forced. Another fascinating moment with “Creed” is the audience not fully noting precisely where things will go; that always makes for an interesting film when things are not predictable. I will be the first to raise my hat at the fact that I had low expectations for “Creed,” but found myself thoroughly entertained with the result.