Fresh, exciting addition to storied boxing saga in Creed

“Creed” is an amazing movie. It left me close to tears at some parts, put me at the edge of my seat in others and sent chills down my spine throughout the movie. “Creed” is not a cash–grab in an attempt to milk the “Rocky” franchise for one more film. Rather, it is direc­tor Ryan Coogler’s passion project that clever­ly builds upon events and characters from the previous “Rocky” movies to deliver one hell of a film.

“Creed” follows the trials and tribulations of Adonis Johnson, played by Michael B. Jordan, an ambitious young boxer who abandons his job to pursue his dream of becoming the next big­gest boxer. In pursuing this dream, Adonis goes to Rocky Balboa for training. What makes their relationship special and what ties “Creed” into the other “Rocky” movies, is that Adonis is the son of Rocky’s former rival/friend Apollo Creed. The plot itself is pretty simple, but that simplici­ty allows for a focus on the characters.

The screenplay, written by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, is tightly written and intelli­gent in its portrayal of the movie’s characters, especially in the depiction of what drives Adonis to be so devoted to boxing. Any script that can make people feel genuine sympathy for as ridic­ulous a character as Rocky “the man who fought the Soviet Union” Balboa in his seventh appear­ance in a film series deserves a special award. The focus of the script is placed on the charac­ters that inhabit the film, and the movie is all the better for it.

The actors behind these characters meet their written roles pound–for–pound with their own prowess. Jordan exudes the braggadocious con­fidence he’s been practicing since his time on “Friday Night Lights,” but is able to turn on a dime and deliver scenes with emotional depth that will surprise anyone who didn’t see Jordan in director Ryan Coogler’s previous film “Fruit­vale Station.” Sylvester Stallone also deserves credit for some truly standout performances that prove that he still has the acting chops that put him on the map in the first “Rocky” movie. Tes­sa Thompson, who plays Bianca, holds her own against the heavyweights that are Stallone and Jordan, but it’s clear where the movie’s focus lies.

The duo is a true powerhouse combo. The scenes that were the most emotionally resonant where those between the two. From training montages to quick words exchanged in between boxing rounds, Jordan and Stallone develop a re­lationship throughout the film that is both realis­tic and heartwarming.

While on the topic of performances, Jordan should get some type of award for his physical­ity alone. I’m not just saying this as some sort of boyish appreciation of “look this guy’s really buff,” but with a movie so focused on training to be the next big boxer, Jordan really makes the viewer believe that he could step in the ring and hold his own against some real–world heavyweights. This is no more evident than in the movie’s first big, exhilarating fight scene. No spoilers, but the way the scene is shot real­ly lends itself to showing just how much Jordan puts into his performance, and I can’t see anyone else doing a better job.

In terms of cinematic quality, “Creed” is of the highest caliber, with plentiful and well–thought out training montages. Director Ryan Coogler really nails the pacing of the movie, weaving in multiple plot elements to form a cohesive sto­ry that never falters in terms of pace. “Creed” is peppered with shots that will take your breath away.

The movie’s soundtrack also deserves praise. Composer Ludwig Goransson crafts a musical score that seamlessly blends hip–hop, traditional orchestration and the classic “Rocky” theme into an absolute knockout. The score captures adren­aline with pounding drums in the fight scenes and laments with a piano in the slower scenes in such a way that adds an unquantifiable value to the scenes.

What sets “Creed” apart from other Oscar–worthy movies is that “Creed” focuses on its main character. You might just be watching a story of an ambitious boxer, but after following Adonis on so much of his journey, it’s hard not to feel connected. This connection is only strength­ened when Adonis’ motivation is revealed that changes the viewer’s perception of Adonis and his actions.

It’s hard to find a genuine fault with this mov­ie without sounding nit–picky; the movie has an expertly–crafted balance of character, plot, ac­tion and thematic depth. The film builds upon the previous “Rocky” series in a way that greatly benefits the movie. Everything from narrative depth to the choreography of the fight scenes are created with a deft hand. In summary: “Creed” is one of the best movies to come out this year and is an absolute knockout in every sense of the term. Hopefully, it will get some recognition come Oscar season.

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