Movie Review | Creed (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Freda Cooper 11.01.2016 2

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Creed (UK Rating: 12A)

Some films are perfectly timed. When the original Rocky was released in the mid-1970s, America was just recovering from discovering its President was a criminal and it needed a new hero, and it got one, in a rags-to-riches story about a man who fights his way to the top, regardless of the obstacles and his own shortcomings. Fast forward 40 years and audiences are being offered a new one in Creed or, as many are calling it, Rocky VII, which is released on Friday, 15th January.
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This is more riches-to-riches, though. Admittedly, the opening scenes are in a juvenile institution, with the young and angry Adonis Johnson constantly getting into fights, but he falls on his feet when he's taken in by his late father's widow (Adonis' mother was his mistress), who inherited his fortune and can give him an infinitely better life. Twenty years later, he's working for a financial institution, boxing at weekends, and eventually decides to give up his job to pursue his dream of a career in the ring. That means going to Philadelphia to track down the legend that is Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who's retired from the sport and runs a restaurant. Initially reluctant to coach the youngster, he eventually comes round to being his mentor and steers him towards his first fight.

"One step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time" is Rocky's mantra as he trains the young fighter, and the film isn't just about Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) fighting against adversity. He's determined to do things his own way: he uses his mother's surname, Johnson, so that nobody knows his father was former world champion, Apollo Creed, and until he meets Rocky, he's never had a trainer, but he knows that if he wants to achieve his ambition, he can't do it alone.


 
If that sounds more than a little traditional, then that's because this is a surprisingly traditional film, and the surprise is that it's directed by Ryan Coogler, whose debut as a director was the hard-hitting Fruitvale Station, which also starred Jordan. That combination promises something tougher and more adventurous than the original Rocky, but instead Coogler turned traditional to the point of old fashioned with a triumphant story sprinkled with sentiment; one that is remarkably faithful to the Rocky formula. True, it has power, but it also loves to tug long and hard at the heart strings, and the whole thing is just too squeaky clean. Nobody swears, the boxing gyms smell of bleach - not sweat and liniment - and even the boxing scenes, which are undoubtedly exciting, are just as shiny.

The shadow of the other six Rocky films hangs over the film and, indeed, they are what gives the story its direction, which means it's essential to know that Apollo Creed wasn't just Rocky's biggest adversary but, eventually, his greatest friend. It is also handy knowing that he died in Rocky IV in an exhibition bout, which brought Balboa out of retirement (not for the first time!). Without that, much of the film is a question mark, and it struggles to stand up on its own.

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6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Creed might be billed as a new chapter in the Rocky story, but it's essentially more of the same: the same values, much the same plot, and some of the same characters. There's no denying its emotional pull, the power of its story, and it's easy to enjoy, yet it's also idealised, predictable, and mildly disappointing… and, inevitably, it leaves the door wide open for Creed II.

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So hyped for this! I love Rocky. The first one is a masterpiece for me, but they did lose their way quite a bit as they went on. I think with Rocky Balboa though, it kind of went back to its roots and what made it more special in the first place and it seems Creed has also followed that, from what I've seen in trailers.

It is a shame it's followed the same sort of pattern again with the plot, but it's always worked and I still always enjoy seeing a new Rocky film... or in this case Creed!

 

I was really excited when I heard about this, but I rewatched the sextet last year and asked myself afterward, "Did I just watch the same film six times?" From beginning to end, they all underwent exactly the same plot arcs, and the only differences were the antagonists and how different plot elements were implemented: in one, Mickey died, in another, the boxing commission refused to let Rocky fight. Eventually that plot arc lost its punch for me, and I doubt I'll ever watch any of the films again. :/

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