Creed

(M) Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has struggled throughout his life. His adolescence was spent in foster care and juvenile detention where he learned to find his solace and survival in fighting.

One day, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) walks into his detention centre cell and offers him a new life. She tells this young delinquent that he is the son of the late Apollo Creed. Despite being the son of another woman, his new mother chooses to raise this troubled young man as her own. He is given a pauper-to-prince experience but, despite the privileges of this lifestyle, Adonis yearns to get into the ring and fight. After university, he is working his way up the corporate ladder, but chooses to leave it behind and move to Philadelphia to pursue his dream to box like his father. He searches for his father’s friend and rival, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), to ask him to consider training and guiding him through the world of boxing.

Despite all of the scepticism that precedes seeing another Rocky film, there is some hope for the Italian Stallion franchise. The choice of director here is the up-and-coming Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and he partners with the potential new face of this franchise, Michael B. Jordan. The challenge for this young team is to respect the original material and still offer something fresh.

The decision to develop the Apollo Creed story provides an originality that lays the groundwork for the rest of Creed. From the outset, Coogler manages to give this well-worn storyline a new look and feel. While he has a raw, retrospective touch that honours the original Rocky film, Cogler provides his own signature to the inner-city. Grey hues bring out the street-wise reality of “Philly” and Cogler also manages to incorporate actual champion boxers, giving Creed a further injection of reality that actors cannot always convey.

Coogler taps into the fact that Stallone will command a certain presence, while he shouldn’t be relied upon to carry the film. The Rocky star turns out to be well-cast as the support for the new storyline, without sidelining the script. Also, the incorporation of an illness affecting Balboa adds the needed emotional component that gets effectively woven into this boxing saga.

The first half provides a promising set up for Creed and then comes the inevitable preparation for the big fight. Like most boxing dramas, this is where things become regretfully formulaic. Adonis and Rocky are knocked around by the challenges of life and they must prove themselves to one another and the world. Similar to Southpaw from earlier in the year, the drama of Creed moves into a conventional storyline that comes to a peak at the final fight. Coogler seems to go through the motions in the second half of the film and fails to cast a worthy villain to the storyline. The Rocky franchise usually provides memorable antagonists, but not for this outing. ‘Pretty’ Rick Conlan (Tony Bellew) is a real-life boxing champion and has the mouth to prove it, but lacks the physical presence to be considered a formidable opponent to Jordan’s Adonis, who is an impressive force on the screen.

Creed does provide some promise for the future of this franchise, but will need to change its formula for it to continue any further. For fans of boxing films, this will provide a nostalgic experience with a fresh twist. The beginning offers something new for this genre, but ultimately it turns into a perfunctory lesson on how to get ready for a big fight.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

One consistent component of the Rocky franchise is the value of having the right support crew in the boxer’s corner. In boxing and in life, having the right people around you to inspire, motivate, and encourage you makes the difference in how things will go in the short and long term. The blessing of Christianity is not only a relationship with God, but the community that comes along with the package. Being part of this group of people should offer the needed sense of encouragement and inspiration through life’s journey. We are hard-wired to need people in our lives. What better group to have around you than those who have that connection with Jesus and share the hope that can only be found through Him? They are not perfect, but they do serve the perfect God.

  1. What does the Bible say about boxing? (1 Corinthians 9:26, 2 Timothy 4:7)
  2. Does this life have any purpose? (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 3:8-12)
  3. What does the community of Christ offer people? (1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12:4-5)

 

Leaving the cinema…

Creed is an example of being shackled by a formula. The beginning offers promise and proves to be a decent boxing tale, but for all of the fresh components, they get lost in the standard boxing formula.

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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