The Dose: ‘Creed’ dazzles to the tune of original ‘Rocky’

The Dose: ‘Creed’ dazzles to the tune of original ‘Rocky’

The Dose: ‘Creed’ dazzles to the tune of original ‘Rocky’
November 30
22:11 2015

Preston Mitchell | Contributing Writer

@presto_mitch

Like everyone else, I was initially skeptical about the idea of a Rocky spin-off about Apollo Creed’s son. Rocky Balboa concluded the classic franchise perfectly, as it was the only follow-up to the first installment that, tonally, felt like the original film. Adding fuel to the potential fire, Stallone’s talent had digressed into a series of tepid, bargain bin actioners.

Nonetheless, filmmaker Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) pulled off a herculean feat and crafted the finest Rocky film since the first. More importantly, he has, without a doubt, made the single most inspirational film of 2015.

Creed stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, the son of the late heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. Spending the majority of his childhood in foster homes and juvie stints, Donnie is taken in by Apollo’s wife Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) and is humbly raised from adolescence to adulthood. Once Donnie decides to go to Philadelphia in hopes of professional boxing, his life starts to change forever after the aging Rocky Balboa becomes his trainer.

The Rocky movies are notorious for their trite sentimentality and heavy reliance on formula. This is, of course, why we love them to begin with. But as the series continued, it became less about the underdog story and more about the cheesy villains Stallone would be pitted against. This is exactly why “Creed” is such a breath of fresh air. The film works so wonderfully well because it retools the Rocky formula and several key moments to unearth a fully realized and deft human tale about manhood in today’s age.

Coogler brilliantly scraped away the franchise’s ridiculousness, invigorating this spin-off with well-defined human beings and realistic, gritty settings for them to inhabit. Led by the great Michael B. Jordan, this plot is less about the sport and more about Donnie making his own legacy despite never knowing his father.

It is a film all about relationships, whether it be a mom not wanting her son to die in the ring (Rashad), a young woman sharing Donnie’s ambition (Tessa Thompson) or the mentor slowly becoming his father figure (Stallone). And as stellar as every performance is, especially Jordan’s, Sly Stallone absolutely kills it here. Delivering his best performance in years, he milks his signature role for every last drop of emotion, wisdom and pathos. His work is the principal mark of excellence that bridges generations and elevates this film into something very special.

With only two movies under his belt, Ryan Coogler illustrates here that he can facilitate a powerful drama that’s also entertaining. Punctuated by a bevy of tearjerking sequences, it is filmed gorgeously by Maryse Alberti. Similar to her work in The Wrestler, she makes the low-class settings of Philadelphia just as aesthetically appealing as its intensified boxing fights.

Also notable is the score of Ludwig Göransson, who is best known to hip-hop fans through his collaborations with Childish Gambino. While this is the first Rocky without iconic composer Bill Conti, Göransson merges booming orchestral score and rap instrumentation in a memorable way.

I cannot stress the near-perfection of this film enough. I walked into the screening for Creed wanting another great Rocky film, which I thankfully received and more. In fact, it is a phenomenal standalone movie that nails the core of what makes the best sports movies endlessly rewatchable: the passion everyone has for what they do. “Creed” makes the love of the game more proverbial than ever and is the stand-up-and-cheer movie of the year.

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