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Film Review: Creed

Allow me to start off this review by telling you a little bit about myself. I’m from South Jersey. Philadelphia territory. Despite the separation from Philly by the Delaware River, South Jersey has much of the same heart as Philly. There may be more vineyards and farmer’s markets than there used to be, but there’s still that blue collar, chip-on-your-shoulder vibe underneath. The people here don’t care what you think about them. And when they like something, they love it with all their hearts.

Rocky Balboa is serious business in Philadelphia and so you can imagine my concern when I heard they were making yet another Rocky film. Sylvester Stallone has milked this franchise for all its worth; however, he lost the magic of the first film along the way. With a new director and star, Creed has brought back that magic.

Creed is the reunion of Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and its star, Michael B. Jordan.  Jordan plays Adonis “Donny” Johnson, the illegitimate son of world heavyweight champion boxer Apollo Creed, who famously died in the ring in Rocky IV.  Despite the disapproval of Creed’s wife and his adopted mother, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Donny enters the professional boxing world.  He’s a fish out of water, however, as a college educated man who was ‘saved’ from a life of hardship by a very wealthy woman.  As such, Donny has a difficult time finding a trainer, most of whom feel that he doesn’t have the heart of a poor man who fights because it’s his only option.  So Donny travels to Philadelphia to track down Rocky Balboa and the rest is history.

The film takes some time to get moving, and I wasn’t entirely sure about the decision to cast Michael B. Jordan as the lead.  However, he won me over as an angry young man fighting to prove himself.  I’ve not seen Fruitvale Station, I now feel as though I should.  Clearly Jordan works well with Ryan Coogler.  Coolger, in turn, is able to get the most out of his star and films him beautifully.  Sylvester Stallone was born to play this roll.  Now that the action roles are in the past, the grumpy, old-fashioned codger type of role is perfect for him, and he actually seemed to enjoy being a part of this film.  He and Jordan have fantastic chemistry on screen as trainer and fighter, surrogate father and son. Each teaches the other and picks him up when he’s down.  It’s a beautiful relationship. Stallone and Tessa Thompson bring the “Philly” to the film. Thompson plays Bianca, an aspiring musician, and her musical stylings definitely have that Philly sound.  I think Questlove and the Roots would be proud.  Bianca is unobtrusive but vital as Jordan’s love interest and their blossoming relationship is gradual, gentle, and sweet.

The film hits all the required plot points of a typical Rocky film, but puts a new twist on them. You’ve got the moving training montages, but instead of being followed by children to the top of the steps at the Art Museum, Donny is flanked by young men popping wheelies on motorbikes. The score features music of varying styles, including hip hop. But don’t worry, you do get a touch of that famous Rocky score (you know the one I’m talking about). Bianca takes Donny to her favorite cheesesteak place, the Electric Factory, an awesome music venue, makes an appearance, and you get lovely vistas of the city. The bouts are stunning, carefully choreographed works of art, and the final bout putting you at the edge of your seat. This film’s use of modern technology is one of the most successful I’ve ever seen. The film does not rely on technology, which can make a film dated as it ages, but Donny and Bianca still use their cellphones and tablets as your average present day people would.  That was cool to see.  There were a few cheesy moments in the film, but these are easily glossed over, and do not upset the general pacing and theme of the film.

Rocky was originally an underdog story, featuring a likable lead who won over a city and put everything on the line to compete. Creed strikes those same chords, without requiring viewers to have seen the previous Rocky films. This makes the film approachable to a wider audience. Michael B. Jordan masterfully portrays a complex character that is easy to relate to, even if you’ve never thrown a punch in your life. This film is absolutely worth your while, and Philly-approved, if the resulting applause in the crowded theater was any indication. I think my morning run will be a little faster than normal tomorrow.

4.5 epic training montages out of 5.

About ajennimills (40 Articles)
Ashley was raised on sci-fi television shows and movies, the Adam West version of Batman, and all those marvelous 90s Nickelodeon cartoons. She’s a Jersey girl and an avid Philadelphia sports fan, but has never once thrown batteries at a baseball player, or snowballs at Santa Claus. Ashley is also a triathlete, marathon runner, hiker, and occasional dog walker, mostly so she doesn't have to watch what she eats.
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