One of the story lines in “Creed” is that Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Rocky Balboa’s most famous opponent, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), doesn’t want to use his father’s name. The young boxer wants to build his legacy on his own and not as a byproduct of his father’s name.
The makers of “Creed” should have taken a similar approach. Had this story of a young boxer not been the latest in the continuing “Rocky” saga, it would have been a compelling story of passion, determination and heart. Because it’s under the “Rocky” umbrella, there are too many places to compare and contrast “Creed” with the Oscar-winning film from 1976.
“Creed” is a reboot of the franchise and follows a very similar structure to the original movie. To that end, the movie repeatedly falls short.
It starts with Adonis. He’s a young boxer living with the pain of never knowing his father and a life in foster homes. Although he’s been given a better life by his father’s wife (Phylicia Rashad), Adonis wants a boxing career. He packs his bags, moves to Philadelphia and approaches Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) about training him.
Jordan is a charismatic actor and sells both the anger and compassion that swirl inside him. But, he’s no Rocky. What made “Rocky” such a memorable movie was that Rocky Balboa was a lovable lug. Boxing was his one and only hope. That’s why it was so compelling when he got his shot.
Adonis isn’t driven by the same demons. He could have had a better life, but he opted to take a different path. That would have been far more interesting without the “Rocky” comparisons.
Director Ryan Coogler – who also co-wrote the script with Aaron Covington – can’t match the adrenalin rush that came in “Rocky” when the Italian Stallion went through his training regiment. The way director John G. Avildsen presented Rocky’s training regiment in the original film made him a boxer of the people.
Scenes such as Rocky running up the steps to the Philadelphia Art Museum or pounding on slabs of meat kept reinforcing the raw nature of the character. The closest Coogler comes is having Adonis run surrounded by motorcycle riders.
The shadow of “Rocky” looms big over “Creed.”
The strength of the “Rocky” story was that this never-was boxer was getting a chance to fight the world’s greatest boxing champ. Weather’s channeled Muhammad Ali to make Apollo come across as the greatest boxer to ever slip on gloves. He was both charming an a monster in then ring.
“Creed” follows a similar line but his opponent, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) is a thug who comes closer to the nearly comatose work Dolph Lundgren did as Drago in “Rocky IV” than the confident and cocky Apollo Creed as played by Weathers. Conlan’s not a likable character so the outcome isn’t nearly as satisfying as in “Rocky.”
Even the fight sequences don’t have the same punch. Coogler takes the viewer into the ring but the scenes are more mechanical than emotional.
Even the music falls short. Bill Conti’s soundtrack for the original film features musical anthems that beautifully enhance every scene. All you have to do is hear a few notes and the power of the film and score come flooding back. The “Creed” soundtrack lacks any original music that creates the same affect. Only a refrain of the “Rocky” theme used late in “Creed” stands out musically.
“Creed” will be a lot more entertaining for those who have never seen “Rocky.” Once comparisons start, “Creed” no longer feels like a strong contender to take over the boxing movie belt.