By Michael Parnell
Because we now have movie franchises and every studio wants, not a hit movie, but a string of movies based on one hit, there is developing a mythology within the universes that these movies create.
Some of them are pretty good. Some of them are not so good. But a new movie which comes out of the mythology created by its predecessor is truly great. That movie is Creed.
The mythology is based on the 1976 Rocky. There we are introduced to Rocky Balboa, a fighter who is not too good and moonlights as an enforcer for a local loan shark. But Rocky is given a chance to fight Apollo Creed, the heavy weight champion of the world. What we see is how a dream becomes more than just something one thinks about. Through determination and drive, Rocky overcomes.
That movie was so huge it spawned five other movies. Some were good (Rocky II) and some were bad (Rocky VI). Out of these comes Creed.
Creed tells the story of Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), an angry young man with a passion to fight. That passion comes from a father he did not know. Adonis is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed.
At the beginning of the movie we see Adonis in juvenile lock up fighting with a much larger boy. We learn he has grown up in foster homes and spent much of his life in trouble. Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), Apollo’s widow, takes the boy into her home and raises him.
Fast forward: Adonis is boxing in Mexico in what is best described as bar brawls. He always wins, but there is a greater need within. He moves to Philadelphia to train and on arriving seeks out Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) for help.
Rocky turns down Adonis’ request at first but in time realizes the debt owed to Apollo for giving him a chance. Training begins, giving Adonis an opportunity like Apollo gave Rocky.
That opportunity comes when it is learned that Apollo was Adonis’ father. Adonis does not want to tread on his father’s legacy. But when his parentage is discovered, Adonis is offered a fight with undefeated “Pretty” Ricky Conlan. (Tony Bellew).
There is a huge catch: Adonis must fight under the name Creed. his brings up huge issues of identity for Adonis and his disdain for being in the shadow of his father.
Creed is a great film. It hits all the right notes and follows its mythic origins well. We see how a kid born with a chip on his shoulder is able to use that as motivation to do great things.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, the movie mines those elements that made the first Rocky such a touch stone. Coogler first directed Jordan in the highly underrated Fruitvale Station.
This is a two-performance movie. One is Jordan. He plays Adonis as a confident but not cocky young man who wants to make a name for himself without resorting to family legacy. Jordan plays this character as one who is his own person and unwilling to stand in any shadow.
But the great performance is Stallone. Stallone has allowed Rocky to age well. He is not the punch drunk palooka from Rocky V. Stallone plays Rocky as a man haunted by what he has lost and very in touch with his pain. There is great pathos in this performance and one that will be worthy of consideration come the Oscar season.
If you loved Rocky, go see this movie. It will make you feel all those emotions you felt when you first saw it. If you didn’t like Rocky, go see this movie. It is one of the best examples of how those who are in the business of making movies get right the roots and values their predecessors create. This is the continuation of the myth of a great franchise in the best possible way.
Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Written by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, based on characters created by Sylvester Stallone
With: Michael B. Jordan (Adonis Johnson), Phylicia Rashad (Mary Anne Creed), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Tony Bellew (“Pretty” Ricky Conlan)