Movie Review: ‘CREED’ – Stings Like A Bee

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

CREED | 132 min | PG-13
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson

We all know the rote formula of boxing films, and CREED doesn’t push those boundaries much. An underdog wants a name for himself, undergoes training montages, pays lip service to a throwaway love story and enters one big bout to reach the top. However, every now and then a sports film finds that sweet spot of balancing both action and drama. Once in awhile, the fights in a film are justified with stories full of enough crushing emotion that they become all the more intense and gratifying. CREED is that film.

Extending the highly regarded ROCKY franchise into a spin-off involving the previously unseen son (Michael B. Jordan) of Apollo Creed is more than enough reason to believe these films are running out of punches, especially nine years after Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed the capper (ROCKY BALBOA) to the uneven series.

Yet CREED is the first of the series since ROCKY III to feel more like a successor than a clone. It shows confidence and potential, even in the opening shot as the camera travels a juvenile detention hall into the room where a young Adonis Creed learns that he is the son of the late Apollo, who was killed in a boxing match. It’s a scene that sets the tone for the whole movie, letting audiences know they are in for something with more quality and less cheese.

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

That’s not to say the film is entirely dairy-free. Such out of place elements like the love story between Creed and neighbor girl Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are still around and better suited for its own different film. Filmmaker Ryan Coogler (FRUITVALE STATION) attempts to appeal to the female demographic by writing a love interest with more character than most sports films, but it clashes with the more interesting dynamic between Creed and Mr. Balboa himself (an Oscar-worthy Stallone).

It’s the fights and Stallone’s scenes that rise to the occasion. Now that he’s wearing an extra decade since we last saw him, Stallone’s seventh outing as Rocky makes for a wise mentor who’s reluctant to get back in the game. This is, of course, followed by the expected series of scenes involving doubt, training and cocky champions.

While the film seems to resemble typical fare, the conflict between these two men of who’s fighting for whom clears the smoke. In the end, it’s the audience who wins. CREED is an engaging presentation of an adrenaline-pumping, powerful tale loaded with grit and determination.

Grade: B

CREED opens tonight.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.