We enter the fray in Juvie, where a troubled youth by the name of Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is being held. He is picked up and taken in by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) who goes onto inform him of his true parenthood, something the title of the film hopefully makes clear to you. Jump to seventeen years later and Adonis has estalished quite the reputaiton as a professional boxer in Tijuana, Mexico with an excellent record of 15 to 0 and has a never-explained job, although all he really wants to do is fight. So he travels to Philadelphia and tracks down Rocky Balboa and talks him into training him.
The film has some fantastic direction from Ryan Coogler, who also collaborated with Aaron Covington for the excellent screenplay. It certainly provides an exciting story for those who aren’t familiar with the Rocky films, but is an exceptional soft reboot of the franchise for the more initiated. It provides a subtle but effective balance between focusing the story on Creed and Rocky. It allows the story of Creed to flourish without being overshadowed by the star of the franchise.
But Stallone makes a heroic return as Rocky with an exceptional return performance, winning him the Golden Globe, and getting him nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actor. It’s a heartfelt performance, and one that certainly brings the franchise full circle. Whether it’ll be the last is yet to be seen, although if it was, it certainly would be finishing on a high. His chemistry with Jordan, and also his love interest, Tessa Thompson is clear to see on screen and really brings a sense of reality to the picture that really grounds it for the rest of the audience. Jordan, as Creed puts down a fine performance that really brings together both the story arc of the character and the emotional curve.
The cinematography of the fight sequences is fantastic, variying between fights depending on the significance. The first fight we see Creed take part in in Tijuana, the camera provides a low, slow, sweeping, single-take shot of the ring, giving us a real sense of being in the crowd. Later on it changes, and we get close-up shots of the fighters and really get a personal feel that is missing from the earlier fights, and allows you to truly care about each hit given and taken and the blows traded between the fighters. Cinematographer Maryse Alberti really went above and beyond the call of duty to provide an excellent feel to the fight, which mirrors the excellent work of Southpaw last year.
All in all, this is an extremely faithful, yet entertaining reboot to this hugely popular franchise that really encapsulates what the Rocky films were about from the start: the underdog story. It is a fairly old fashioned idea, yet one that resonates with the audience, mirroring that of the first Rocky but with the benefit of the history of the old films. The superb performance from Stallone brings the film together, right up to an ending that will have you wanting to jump up and punch the air.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures