Creed: Stallone’s Epic Finale to the Rocky Franchise

After splurging an estimated $5.8m on advertising, “Creed” has definitely cemented itself in the consciousness of cinephiles.

Meanwhile, Michael B. Jordan, best known for portraying the Human Torch in this year’s flop reboot of “Fantastic Four”, has utilised Creed to cement himself as one of Hollywood’s most captivating young actors.

He takes on the role of Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky Balboa’s slain best friend Apollo, who was formerly played by Carl Weathers, and died at the hands of Rocky’s Russian nemesis Ivan Drago in the Cold War-themed “Rocky 4”.

The film is notably produced by Sylvester Stallone, who unbeknownst to many is the only other person besides Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin to have received both screenwriter and actor Oscar nominations for the same film. Sly had written Rocky and Apollo to be friends at a time when black and white Americans were less chummy. Coogler, whose claim to fame was a film about police brutality against African Americans, named “Fruitvale Station”, identified with this narrative when pitching Creed to the Italian Stallion, and subsequently convincing Stallone to reopen Balboa’s fictional Mighty Mick’s Gym.

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Something had to give when Stallone liked Coogler’s proposal and even agreed to give up the director’s chair of his most powerful franchise. Aptly dubbed “Rocky 7”, Creed is a feel-good script that not only convinced Stallone to hand the creative reigns of directing and writing to Coogler, but also enthrones the Balboa character in wisdom and mystique, rather than centering the story narrative around him.

After all the “Straight Outta Compton” hype that’s barraged us this year, we are elated that this story is not of another marginalised black kid who never knew his dad. “I’m afraid of taking the name and losing. They’ll call me a fraud, a fake Creed,” the avid boxer laments to his love interest, played by the equally stellar Tessa Thompson. Nonetheless, the older and more fragile Balboa works tirelessly on Creed Jr. in a dramatic action movie no less inspiring than its testosterone-injected Rocky predecessors.

Bolstered by an infallible cast, each well-crafted scene leads the viewer’s mind on to yearn for the next. Boxing trivia, tribute characters and cameos pepper the gripping movie. Its director of photography Maryse Alberti deserves much credit, as well as Lucasfilm, which painstakingly touched up the film frame-by-frame to aesthetic perfection.

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While Carl Weathers now plays himself in satirical cameos on TV shows and films like “Arrested Development” and “Toy Story Of Horror”, Stallone has persevered to take on tough old man roles in “Rocky 6” and “The Expendables” movies, which were also written and directed by him. With Creed, he continues to punch above his weight. One cannot help but feel happy to see both Rocky and the real-life Stallone persist as immortal and colourless cultural icons, who inspire both young and old to push the boundaries of their perceived physical limitations.

Above all, what lifts Creed to possibly be one of the year’s best pictures is its moments of laughter, warmth and inspiration, which are all hardly cheesy nor predictable. Stallone, Coogler and their team of producers have apparently created a classic that will endure for decades.

Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Genre: Drama, Sport
Running time: 133 minutes


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