"Creed" (2015) - Rated PG-13 / Runtime: 133 minutes
Review by: JJ Mortimer
A film that easily could have safely rested on the laurels of the six Rocky films before it, Creed instead manages to be a superb film on its own, giving us a lead character worth caring about while presenting top-tier, award-worthy film making and a surefire Oscar-worthy supporting performance from Sylvester Stallone.
The Rocky franchise is something I have held very dear to my heart ever since I was a boy. Motivating, captivating, emotional, and exciting are words that always defined the iconic series, and with Creed, young director Ryan Coogler manages to stay true to these beats without making the story entirely about Rocky Balboa. Simply put, he could have made this just another attempt to put the aging star back in the limelight, and I would have been totally happy. Yet by making Stallone a supporting character (essentially the Mickey role from 1976s Rocky) who helps mentor the aspiring boxer and illegitimate son of the late Apollo Creed, Coogler milks every ounce of emotional heft that is left from the character and uses it to its best intention. This film literally was made at exactly the right time in both the film's universe and in all the actors' careers, almost as though the narrative were allow to stew for the forty years it has existed.
Behind the scenes, Creed excels as a marvel of cinematic sports film making. Long, seemingly one-take shots (reminiscent of last year's Oscar-winning Birdman and 2006s Children of Men) highlight a couple moments in the film, which made me admire just how much choreography was involved in the making of them. The expert cinematography fully captures the cold Philadelphia atmosphere of the original Rocky, while even mirroring the color schemes and tone with an early boxing match to the first match we ever see Rocky Balboa partake in the 1976 original. The boxing looked great and felt realistic, and star Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, a.k.a. Adonis Creed, clearly devoted himself to the training required of the role, and even made hints at mimicking the style of Carl Weathers' performance in the earlier films.
The smooth editing keeps the film moving along at an even clip. Certain points where another film would have lingered and made us witness every aspect of the relationship between two characters, Creed instead smartly cuts away at just the right times without overstaying its welcome (even at over two hours in length, which makes it the longest film in the franchise by a wide margin).
Creed is about moments, about discovering this new character who is introduced to fans of the Rocky series just as fresh as the character himself is to Rocky Balboa and the notion of legitimizing himself under the shadow of his late father's name. Michael B. Jordan is dynamic under the direction of Ryan Coogler, who allows his actors moments to shine in emotional clarity. And again, special mention must be made to Sylvester Stallone himself, who wisely takes a back seat and allows Jordan to make the film his own. By doing so, Stallone is given some of the best and most emotional scenes in the film, as we witness the two actors share in two very different on-screen battles together.
This film makes us ask the question - "What's in a name?" With Creed, a name is something to neither deny you from who you are or what you are to become, but also something to make you proud of the blood with which that name is connected. Powerful, exciting, highly emotional, and simply one of the best motion pictures of the year.
There's something wonderful about revisiting many of the old locales of the Rocky films. The restaurant and graveyard from Rocky Balboa, as well as the famous steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I nearly cried at two different moments in this film because of the emotional weight a lifetime with this character has created. If Sylvester Stallone isn't at LEAST nominated for a 2015 supporting actor Oscar, I will be disheartened and somewhat devastated.