creedWhile Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is breathing a little harder these days, the Rocky film franchise is alive and well with the introduction of Creed. Though the aged pugilist has made for an intriguing lead over the years, Creed signifies a potential passing of the baton to aspiring boxer Adonis “Hollywood” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who initially seems intent on carving out his own path in life rather than relying on late father Apollo Creed’s name.

As we learn in the backstory, young Adonis never met his father, born out of a moment of infidelity for the late Apollo Creed and left to fend for himself in youth homes when him mother was no longer part of the picture. We’re told that young Adonis is a good kid, but loves to fight. When approaching his teen years, Adonis is introduced to a woman who we later learn is Apollo’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), who takes him in and raises him.

Flash forward to his early 20s, and Adonis has a promising office job where he just earned a promotion, but at nights he’s been heading down to Mexico where his talent alone has led him to a solid list of wins. Adonis decides it’s now or never and when he learns that his local trainer won’t give him a look, he tells Mary Anne he’s quit his job and moves from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

He seeks out Rocky, who appears worn down by life. He’s satisfied with his restaurant, but has left boxing behind as all those he’s loved have either passed away or left him. After Rocky initially turns him down, Adonis attempts to train on his own, but he’s not giving up, asking the former champ for any tips he can offer and it’s not long before Rocky drops by to check up on him.

What follows is a coming of age story, and while the love story between Adonis and his musician downstairs neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is told with sincerity, the real heart of this film is the relationship between Adonis and Rocky. Adonis is torn between wanting to live up to the legacy his father reached in the sport that he loves while also having a certain sense of anger over the man never being there for him. Meanwhile, in Rocky’s life, he’s alone and seemingly ready to live out his remaining years away from the sport that he loved. In each other, they find exactly what they need.

Rocky is Adonis’ key to understanding how to become the man he wants to be in life and in the ring, while Adonis provides Rocky with a shot at redemption. Rocky now has a defacto son, and one that can help ease his guilt over Apollo’s death. It’s not always an easy path between the two, but the journey to the final fight against the champ is ultimately more important than the final result, but no less entertaining to watch as the boxing sequences are equal parts brutality and poetry.

With Jordan as Creed, there’s a compelling new character for which the franchise can continue if it wishes to. And as long as Stallone is around and wants to portray Rocky, he proved that he’s as adept in a supporting role as he has been at carrying the franchise all these years.

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Posted by AC