I have had a soft spot for anything boxing related since watching the classic anime series Hajime no Ippo. Everything but the sport itself. While watching boxing is often a bore, media about boxing manages to make myths out of men and heroes out of those who are not. It’s the deeper dive into why someone would risk their lives for something as trivial as a sport that appeals to me most, along with the growth as a fighter (and hopefully person), while persevering immense pain and pressure, that entertains me most.
2015’s “Creed” has all of that. Pound-for-pound, I consider “Creed” one of the best sports dramas in recent memory. When I had the chance to watch it again with Diane (her first time seeing it), I did not hesitate.
“Creed” stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson (Creed), the bastard son of Apollo Creed from the Rocky film franchise. Rocky himself (Sylvester Stallone) also returns. Tessa Thompson rounds out the main cast as Bianca, Adonis’s neighbor and eventual love interest.
The film does an amazing job of hitting the nostalgia highs of a sequel without getting bogged down by them. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” came out the same year and despite being a solid film, it was as much a retread as it was a sequel. “Creed” suffers none of that.
While Rocky plays a big part as Adonis’s coach and “Uncle”, this movie is entirely about the Creed family and Apollo Creed’s legacy as a boxer.
You aren’t required to see every Rocky film to follow along. For the most part, everyone from those films is long gone save for Rocky himself. And, I must say, while Stallone may not be the best actor, he plays the older version of his most famous character perfectly. The entire time, it made me wish to see Stallone in more age and ability-appropriate roles rather than botox-and-blast action films that do nothing for his legacy.
Of course, Stallone’s turn as Rocky the elder father figure would be nothing without Michael B. Jordan’s performance. He nails the brooding perfectly without it detracting from his character. He has a cocky edge, but it is consistently tempered by his softer side toward his adoptive mother, his girlfriend, and Rocky. It is an incredible feat to play such a physical role while still being able to ring every possible emotion out of the audience over the course of the movie.
The real star of the film is how it was shot. Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Creed” feels almost too true-to-life in its presentation. The fights, in comparison to “Rocky” at least, look completely real. They are also shot in a way that captures the action without excessive cuts or motion blur. The final fight, complete with cuts to cameras and shots they most likely use to film real boxing matches, make “Creed” feel as authentic as possible while not losing anything in the process.
Best of all, Coogler timed “Creed” perfectly. Scenes leading up to fights all build anticipation. You can hear the crowd noise slowly being piped in while the attention is focused on someone’s face (usually Creed’s). When the fight begins, the action is consistent. Unlike a lot of sports movies (and action films for that matter), I always felt engaged by the material and found it easy to follow along as things sped up.
Every movie with Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, or directed by Ryan Coogler has been pure gold for me. “Creed” was fun the first time I watched it and just as fun seeing it again. From the acting to the direction, this is an all-time great sports film and still a great drama otherwise. Diane loved it and I have yet to convince her of the greatness of Hajime no Ippo or boxing-in-media. I’ll keep trying, especially since movies like this one do all the arguing for me.