In a world of remakes, rehashes, regrams, and retweets it often seems like the Hollywood machine is lacking new ideas. Maybe its not that it’s lacking new ideas, but that the new ideas don’t guarantee they payday that comes with a built in audience. Creed marries those ideas by seeming fresh without actually being fresh.
At its baseline, Creed is a spiritual remake of the original Rocky. It tells the story of young Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), illegitimate son of former world champ Apollo Creed, who fights to make a name for himself. He seeks the mentorship of a retired fighter, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), and stumbles into the opportunity of a lifetime. If you’ve seen the original, this probably sounds familiar, however, with young director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) at the helm, it doesn’t feel like the same old Hollywood remake.
Creed is driven by its performances. Never in my life did I think I would be moved by Sly Stallone on the big screen. Long gone are the days of a shirtless Rambo screaming out of the corner of his mouth. In his reprisal of the role that shot him to fame 40 years ago, Stallone delivers a gripping performance as a man who has lost everything he ever held dear and is ready to give up on life. The pain of losing the life he once had and everyone he loves is written on Stallone’s face throughout.
The young Creed, obviously hurt and angry from the lack of a father in his early life, has been searching for someone to fill that role, and finds it in Rocky. This helps bring the aging boxer back from the brink. Jordan’s screen presence is undeniable – he commands each scene and it’s easy to see why his young star is soaring. The relationship between the two and the juxtaposition of each characters fight drive the film emotionally and each boxing match is a feast for the eyes.
The biggest qualm for fans of the series will lie in the film’s villain. “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, played by real life boxer Tony Bellew, falls short of Rocky’s foes from previous films. Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago were all larger than life with one-liners that are still quotable today. Conlan on the other hand has a dad bod.
Creed makes a strong case for a new formula Hollywood should follow. If you must do remakes, put them in the hands of young, talented directors with a new vision for an old story, cast a young star on the rise whose presence commands the audiences attention, and let an age old character complete their arc.
Written by: Craig Sherwood