“Creed is the best movie I’ve seen this year.”
Producer/ star Sylvester Stallone said the following on Ellen Degeneres about how he didn’t want to write Creed, the forty year follow up to Rocky: “It’s a whole new generation… Forty years has passed, and what worked in my generation doesn’t exactly work in this generation. Everything’s just changed.”
Stallone said about lead actor playing title character Adonis Creed (son of series beloved Apollo Creed) Michael B. Jordan. “He’s the next thing. I mean, he really is.” He might as well have been referring to director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) as well who brings a new generation of energy and stylization to the Rocky formula, a lucrative franchise in its seventh-installment.
This is the first I have ever seen what I would call a visible generation gap in terms of filmmaking-storytelling. Coogler (29) follows up his minimalist realistic take of his first film with an expanded scope and multiple directorial flourishes. The movie jumps from Hollywood to Philadelphia to Liverpool introducing fighters Adonis faces with brightly coloured career record captions on-screen that efficiently bring the audience up to speed of the stakes of the fight. The helmer then carries over the in-the-moment but not in your face shoulder-cam filmmaking of his last effort each time the title character enters the ring. It is a spectacular buildup and one of my favourite film techniques to follow the character on their journey behind the scenes and to Creed’s best effort the fights don’t let up. The film’s best scene and one of the year’s best is a one-shot second act fight showstopper that shows Jordan receiving an apparently direct-hit to the face in slow motion.
Other minor flourishes that signify the changing of the guard beyond the listed credits (Stallone for the first time doesn’t write or direct) are in the story’s treatment of its main character. Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed doesn’t have quite the same underdog status as his predecessor. Beginning a hard life in a juvenile detention centre where the film opens, he is taken in by Apollo Creed’s widow and brought up in a life of luxury. Showing how unfulfilled our hero is in his successful and high paying day job, he abandons a promotion to become who he wants to be… a fighter. The movie displays its main hurdle not in the character’s struggle to become a somebody, but to live up and reforge an established name. This timely millennial struggle calls Creed to function as a worthy successor to Rocky, and in that regard it succeeds.