Michael B. Jordan Shines in Creed. The seventh movie in the Rocky franchise opens in theaters nationwide this Wednesday, November 25th, and it pulls all the right punches.
Creed is the perfect Thanksgiving movie. It’s funny, exciting, and moving, hitting all the right notes required to pull off a good Rocky film. Thematically, it’s about family, love, friendship, overcoming seemingly impossible odds, knowing how to fight your battles, and doing the right things for the right reasons.
It’s also about identity. Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of the late Apollo Creed, grows up in and out of group homes and detention centers, until Apollo’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) takes him in. Now an adult and unsatisfied with his job at a Los Angeles financial firm, Adonis commits to pursuing his dream of being a fighter like his father. To achieve this, he moves to Philadelphia to enlist the help of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). But Adonis doesn’t want to just fight, he wants to find himself.
The aging, lonely Rocky finds a new reason for living in training Adonis, who adopts the name Creed with reluctance (he’s grown up with Johnson, his mother’s name). Once Rocky is diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma, the film takes on a new dimension. Adonis, who has taken to calling Rocky “Unc,” realizes he has more than just himself to fight for. We all must fight to live, the film stresses, but more than that, we must fight together if we’re to have any chance at winning.
While the film does rely heavily on the arc of the first Rocky films, as USA Today’s Brian Truitt pointed out, I’d say it does so with grace. Creed isn’t a remake of the earlier films, but a fresh take on an old story that both maintains continuity while capturing the spirit of the first two films. Not an easy feat, considering the saga’s first installment came out forty years ago.
Instead of a humble, shy, and arguably frail woman like Adrian as the protagonist’s love interest, we see Creed fall for the strong, independent Bianca (Tessa Thompson), an aspiring local musician who suffers progressive hearing loss. As their relationship grows, both Bianca and Adonis aspire to achieve their dreams in spite of their struggles, with each supporting the other equally.
Perhaps most importantly, the fight scenes are explosive and believable in ways that Rocky III and IV couldn’t be with their over-the-top, cartoonish villains, and the Steadicam, one-shot cinematography puts the viewer right in the ring. Jordan’s performance as Creed, whether in or out of the ring, is superb. Adonis has his father’s heart, bluster, and pride, but lacks the flashy ego. As an actor, I’d argue that was the best way to approach that character. Jordan is believable, relatable, and I can’t wait to see more of him in Creed II.
Creed opens in movie theaters tomorrow.