“Your Legacy is More Than a Name.” That’s the tagline for Ryan Coogler’s spinoff of the Rocky series, Creed. And that theme, the theme of your legacy, is apparent throughout the film. It’s been 9 years since the Italian Stallion’s last appearance on the big screen, but that hasn’t slowed him down, as even behind new director Coogler, I feel that this may be one of the strongest entries in the Rocky series to date.
The story to Creed is simple enough; a young man named Adonis “Hollywood Donny” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, makes his way to Philly to seek out Rocky Balboa in order to begin the training necessary to learn how to be a champion boxer. Throughout the film, Donny and Rocky hone his skills as a boxer while he tries to figure out his place in the world. Along the way he finds out just what it means to be a family, and learns to accept his father’s name without diminishing his own legacy.
As can be expected from a Rocky film, the characters are compelling and very well written. Coogler’s excellent writing mixed with the talented performance of every actor involved, especially from Stallone and Jordan. These two put everything they have into their performances, and it shows on the screen. Stallone truly encapsulates Rocky’s older, weathered attitude throughout the film. He’s significantly older than the last time we saw him in the ring in Rocky Balboa, and he’s completely retired once again. In exact contrast, Jordan’s youthful energy and attitude gives him the motivation he needs to be the best boxer he can be. The way these two work with each other, and the way their attitudes both mix and clash throughout the film is entirely realistic, and you really feel for both characters. Really everyone on screen puts out a decent performance, but Stallone and Jordan really make this film their own. Fitting, as they’re the star characters.
The concept of your legacy is the major theme throughout the film. Donny wants to make a name for himself as a boxer without having to use the crutch of his father’s name to gain the notoriety he wants. Meanwhile, Rocky shows slight signs of his legacy going to waste through his retirement. Before Donny shows up, Rocky doesn’t have much of anything to do as he’s tried to keep himself away from the boxing scene. Once he’s face to face with Creed’s son, though, he takes up the mantle as Donny’s trainer and passes on everything he knows to him. The two become a family, and Donny is set on the track to become one of the greatest boxers around.
The characters aren’t the only ones dealing with the concept of a legacy, though. That concept translates to the actual film itself. Stallone didn’t write or direct this film like he did with previous entries in the series. Passing on the mantle of writer/director to Ryan Coogler is Stallone’s legacy of the series. Taking a back seat both as a character and as a director shows that Stallone is ready to let Rocky’s world move on. And part of that moving on is helping usher in a new generation – Both for the characters, and for the filmmakers.
Overall, Creed was a fantastic callback to the Rocky series that still stands on its own as a fantastic film with a worthwhile message. The compelling characters and simplistic yet heart filled story keeps you entertained for the duration of the film, and the message is a relatable one that sticks with you. I’m giving Creed a 5/5, and recommend everyone go see this phenomenal piece of filmmaking.