‘Creed’ is even better than ‘Rocky’ fans could have hoped


Film: “Creed”

Release Date: Nov. 25

Studio: Warner Bros.

Grade: A+

In the weeks before “Creed” was released, my little brothers and I would talk about the new “Rocky” movie, then quickly correct ourselves: “It’s not a Rocky movie, it’s a Creed movie.”

This type of film, I might say, has a devoted fan base.

From 1976 to 2006, six movies traced the story of Rocky Balboa, the Philadelphia boxer who started with nothing but grit and luck to capture the world heavyweight championship.

I believe that the whole series is worth your time, except for “Rocky V” – if you want to argue, watch it for yourself – because even though they might cheese up and take some wrong turns, Rocky is the story of all of us. It’s about how we go through tough times but manage to get through them and fight for what we believe in.

I might not blame you for ignoring “Creed” as another imposter trying to make a buck off of our sentimentality.

But before you disregard the movie completely – consider this.

Director Ryan Coogler, who also co-wrote the film, isn’t trying to make a buck off you. His main goal is to inspire and you’ll feel it through every piece of this film, especially in the detail of the characters.

Michael B. Jordan shines in the lead as Adonis Johnson, son of Apollo Creed, the fictional boxing champ Balboa had to take out in the first two films.

Johnson’s younger years are spent in juvenile detention lunchroom brawls while his 20-something years are spent fighting underground in Mexico and waking up to do some terrible financial job in Los Angeles.

He goes home to his family’s mansion in a vintage car to watch old reels of Creed vs. Balboa. He’s playing Balboa’s role, the underdog, not his father’s.

To help Adonis make it through, we’ve got Tessa Thompson as Bianca, the singer-songwriter blasting music below his apartment – but she isn’t a mousey girl next door at all.

Her own struggle is every bit as powerful as her male counterpart.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure the rest – of course, he’s going to quit his job, move to Philly and convince Balboa to train him to be the best. You came to see that.

I’ll bet you didn’t expect the expert storytelling, as Adonis’s life is a terribly complex teeter-totter between privilege and shame, honor and abandonment on his way to earning respect from what, at a point, Rocky calls his “toughest opponent” – himself.

What we end up with has to be at least as good as the old “Rocky” films. The hero’s journey has been refashioned for our millennial mindset.

Now, more than ever, we need this film.

You’ll make your own conclusions as to the race allegory here, but “Creed” doesn’t pull a single punch. Embrace them all: the underdog will be on your mind for a long, long time after, no matter what you call it.

Aubrey McLaughlin is a features staff writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com