Creed is a Rocky film, just with a different stance and technique. Like its titular character, Creed is aware of its legacy and honours it while at the same time wanting to make a name for itself. Writer-director Ryan Coogler – best known for Fruitvale Station – demonstrates both a clear admiration for the series and the confidence to carve a new course.
The film centres on Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed – introduced in Rocky. Johnson is a self-trained boxer with professional aspirations which lead him to seek the mentorship of his father’s greatest competitor, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Here, Jordan delivers a committed performance while Stallone is powerful as the film’s heart and soul.
Coogler brings an invigorating contemporary edge to the film. Moments and iconography from previous Rocky films are echoed throughout, but such homages feel instinctive rather than derivative. Composer Ludwig Göransson infuses the soundtrack with modern hip-hop, while remaining faithful to Bill Conti’s iconic Rocky score. Maryse Alberti’s cinematography is bold and dynamic, with one long-take fight sequence sure to talked about.
You’ve seen this type of film before, but Coogler has provided a compelling reason to re-enter the ring.