Richard’s “Canada AM” reviews for the “Rocky” reboot “Creed,” Pixar’s latest child-in-peril movie “The Good Dinosaur,” Daniel Radcliffe as Igor minus-the-hump in “Victor Frankenstein” and Bryan Cranston as black-listed writer Dalton Trumbo in “Trumbo.”
How do you breathe new life into a forty-year-old film series? If you’re Albert R. Broccoli you hire Daniel Craig, but if you’re Sylvester Stallone gracefully you pass the torch. “Creed” is the “Rocky 1.0,” the evolution of a story that began in 1976.
Stallone (who is now the same age as Burgess Meredith was in the first “Rocky”) plays Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion for the seventh time. He’s now retired from the ring and running a restaurant called Adrian’s. One day after closing a young man Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) shows up looking for a trainer. Rocky turns him down but the young man, a recent transplant to Philadelphia from Los Angeles, won’t take no for an answer. The young man is the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s old friend who died in the ring at the hands of Ivan Drago. Born after his father’s death, Adonis, or Donnie as he is known, never knew his dad but seems to have inherited the old man’s love of boxing and much of his skill as well but can Rocky whip him into shape for a title match?
“Creed” satisfies on two levels. One as a new, inspiring overcoming-the-odds story while simultaneously providing a nostalgic blast. It’s not a remake—although in a way it almost feels like a remake of the entire “Rocky” series—but attempts to bring the same kind fist-in-the-air triumphant feel as Stallone’s other boxing flicks.
Is it a knock-out?
With a story ripe with underdog theatrics, the signature “Rocky” swelling trumpet score and familiar characters and situations, “Creed” clicks in the part of your brain that grew up watching the “Rocky” movies on VHS. Like Otis Redding’s’s cover of “Satisfaction”, the movie feels vaguely familiar but it also has good beat and you can dance to it, so it gets a pass.
Jordan is a welcome addition to the family. He brings not only a physical presence to the role of the troubled but vulnerability too, even when he’s beating the snot out of someone in the ring. He punches above his weight in a performance that is the engine of the film.
“Creed” maybe named after Jordan’s character and ostensibly center on the young boxer, but let’s get real, this is a “Rocky” movie and Stallone is the star. He plays Balboa as a lion in winter, an old man who has trouble climbing (let alone sprinting) the 72 stone steps leading up to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art made iconic in the first movie. It’s a poignant, engaging and moving performance that ranks as one of Stallone’s best.
For decades on “Creed” proves the blend of boxing and underdogs is still a potent mix, made better by rich performances and Stallone’s quietly affecting work.
Like a lot of people director Ryan Coogler has a personal connection to the Rocky movies.
“Whenever I had a big test at school or a football game (my father would) say, ‘Take 10 minutes and watch this scene from Rocky. That’ll get you fired up. That’ll give you the juice to score five touchdowns. Or get an A on that test.’ I’d look over and think, ‘Are we watching this for me or for you?’”
It’s one thing to have the emotional connection; it’s another to convince Sylvester Stallone to make a seventh Rocky movie.
“I think the most important thing was that this movie was following a different character’s arc,” said Coogler.
“Rocky is there in a role that’s very important to the film but very much supports this other character’s journey to find themselves. That was important because no matter how good the idea was he wasn’t going to make another Rocky movie.”
The result is Creed, the evolution of a story that began in 1976, 10 years before Coogler was born. Michael B. Jordan is Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s old friend who died in the ring at the hands of Ivan Drago.
Born after his father’s death, Adonis never knew his dad but seems to have inherited the old man’s love of boxing and much of his skill, but can Rocky whip him into shape for a title match? Cue the underdog theatrics and signature swelling trumpet score.
“Creed is about a sense of identity,” said Coogler, “which is what I think the first Rocky was but the other themes are what make this fresh. What happens to someone dealing with an absentee father? What does love look like in the millennial generation when women are just as career oriented as men, or are expected to be? This idea of a generational handoff, baby boomers handing off responsibility and jobs to millennials; what does that look like?”
It looks like Rocky 1.0, a new story for a new generation.
“I was always honest with (Stallone) and let him know what the movies meant to me. I think he has an understanding that the movies kind of belong to everybody at this point.”
Michael B. Jordan’s love affair with Rocky
“The things that came to mind (while watching the Rocky films was) inspiration. Then this project came up and I had the chance to fall in love with the Rocky franchise all over again.”