Ryan Cooler’s Creed is both a sequel to and a reboot of the Rocky franchise. Michael B Jordan plays Adonis, the son of the original series’ Apollo Creed, and is struggling to find happiness in a high-flying office-based career in LA. He decides to move to Philadelphia, seek out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and convince him to train him to be a boxer like his father.
The film succeeds on many levels and it very much feels like a Rocky film, even though Rocky himself if now a supporting character. The tone is right; the environment feels right; and the underdog story, though familiar, establishes a hero to root for. Michael B Jordan brings the required physicality to the role of Adonis, but also gives the character depth and heart. The relationship that develops between him and Rocky, whom he affectionately calls “Unc” is a pleasure to watch, and Stallone is sensible enough to downplay and not try to take Jordan’s film away from him.
It’s tough to make boxing films feel fresh, especially as this is technically the seventh film in the series, but Coogler (who also co-wrote the film with Aaron Covington) manages to retread old ground in a new way, delivering drama and depth. The boxing sequences, which feature roving cameras and long takes, are fantastic, full of real weight and tension. Most importantly, Coogler has remembered that the original Rocky was a drama before it was an action film, and Creed satisfactorily fits into that legacy.