‘Creed’ Movie Review: Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan Set a New Standard for Boxing Movies

Movie Review: Reboots aren’t new in Hollywood, but good reboots are relatively difficult to come by. Not only is the original “Creed” a worthy reboot of the “Rocky” franchise – it sets the standard moving forward for sports movies and franchise entertainment.

Creed Movie Review Rocky Balboa Michael B Jordan Ryan Coogler Sylvester Stallone Film Boxing Sports Movie

I’m not sure anyone expected “Creed” to translate so well to the big screen decades after the original “Rocky” movie hit audiences so hard. After all, the first movie is an all timer and messing with its legacy was a death note for any producer or filmmaker trying to stand up to the originality of the first few movies in the franchise. But a unique grouping of talented industry heads, led by Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, as well as Sylvester Stallone’s continued contributions to the universe, not only made “Creed” a financial and critical success – it launched a new life for the franchise and ushered in a new standard for boxing films.

Conventional is the name of the game with the “Rocky” franchise – in all the best ways. Somehow, a story about a laughably unassuming boxer from Philadelphia has churned out a handful of remarkably fun and lighthearted sequels, as well as a spinoff trilogy soon to be completed with the release of “Creed III.” Each iteration adds just enough new material to warrant their own existence, and the centerpiece never fails to make you laugh, smile, and feel emotionally connected to at all times.

It would be careless of me to start anywhere besides the friendship that Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed’s son Adonis form through the duration of the original “Creed.” Adonis sports a healthy dose of both Apollo’s flashy and charismatic side, as well as the hunger that Rocky had to break into the professional boxing space. Michael B. Jordan delivers in a role that asks a lot from him (both physically and emotionally) and he absolutely uses the entire runway to his advantage. The movie ultimately becomes a self-reflexive one about Jordan’s simultaneous rise through the ranks in Hollywood.

Sylvester Stallone is obviously back to play the character that started it all. I was a tad bit worried to see whether Stallone’s age would make Rocky’s childlike approach to the world awkward or inauthentic, but those worries were quickly washed away when the movie establishes his longstanding respect and love for both his late wife Adrian and former friend Apollo.

Many of the sequels to the “Rocky” franchise came in with a runtime barely scratching over 90 minutes. By contrast, “Creed” is well over two hours – and the movie doesn’t use that runtime to pack in more boxing scenes. The movie relies heavily on emotional performances and riveting direction by esteemed auteur Ryan Coogler. At this point, Coogler has established himself in the industry as a figure that can accomplish any action feat and steadily handle a big blockbuster, but that wasn’t necessarily the case when “Creed” first released.

When “Creed” hit theaters in 2015, Coogler had only worked as a director on one other film, “Fruitvale Station,” and was relatively new to the industry. “Creed” was a big risk for everyone involved and very quickly you come to realize that the franchise was in good hands moving forward. The obvious moment that’ll take your breath away in “Creed” is the long take during the first boxing match for Adonis in which the camera follows the entire fight from inside the ring without cutting. It’s one of the more flashier scenes of the century, and it fits in neatly with the flashy and overwhelming tone of the movie.

“Creed” doesn’t necessarily feel like a completely new moviegoing experience. You’ve seen movies like “Creed” before – particularly in previous “Rocky” movies – but there’s just enough that’s new to make it stand out from the others. Tessa Thompson is terrific and her character continues to be one of the more unique and riveting ones the franchise has ever introduced. She gets an expanded role in “Creed II,” but it all starts with a few great moments in the first one.

I also came to love how unabashedly similar and reminiscent “Creed” is towards its predecessors. It borrows heavily from iconography that made the originals so special without feeling overly gawky or serviced towards those previous movies. It also doesn’t mess with the lore all that much, although I don’t necessarily call myself a gatekeeper to the “Rocky” fandom. Maybe some others have more complaints with plot points littered in “Creed.”

Overall, “Creed” is not only a fun and solid reintroduction to the “Rocky” universe, but it also tells a riveting story about identity. Adonis’ struggles to come to terms with his father’s past is genuine and deep rooted in pain. There’s enough meat on the bone in Adonis Creed’s introduction to the big screen, and the boxing sequences are just icing on the cake.