Creed Early Reviews: Rocky Spinoff is Formulaic, But Hits its Mark

Creed (2015) reviews - Michael B. Jordan and Sly Stallone

Creed, the seventh installment overall in the Rocky movie franchise, tells the story of Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), son of the late boxing champion Apollo Creed. Adonis, in spite of his own personal fears about following in his father's footsteps, fancies becoming a professional fighter himself and sets out to Philadelphia - seeking the help of his father's boxing rival-turned friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky in time agrees to train Adonis, but the road to success in the ring ends up presenting obstacles for both student and teacher thereafter.

Ryan Coogler, who directed Jordan in the acclaimed true story-based drama Fruitvale Station, was the creative force behind Creed (which he co-scripted with Aaron Covington, in addition to directing) - and Coogler's passion for the project has shone through in the often electrifying theatrical trailers that have been released for Creed.

Naturally, the sequel/spinoff brings with it baggage in the form of six previous Rocky movies (and 40 years of franchise history), but the movie's first reviews indicate Coogler's Rocky installment is by no means a cynical attempt to tap into nostalgia for this series. Indeed, pretty much every Creed review released thus far agrees that the film relies on familiar sports drama genre tropes, be they training montages or formulaic plot beats. However, a number of critics seem to agree that there are two key elements that make up for that:

  1. Energetic and sometimes inspired direction by Coogler (especially as the film progresses).
  2. Strong work by Jordan and in particular Stallone, who turns in his best performance in recent memory.

(Anyone willing to take bets on Sly's odds of landing a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for the latest Rocky film? Moving on...)

Creed - Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan

For more on that, check out these positive Creed review excerpts (and click the respective links for the entire reviews):

Variety - Andrew Barker

With his “Rocky” spinoff, “Creed,” writer-director Ryan Coogler confirms every bit of promise he displayed in his 2013 debut, “Fruitvale Station,” offering a smart, kinetic, exhilaratingly well-crafted piece of mainstream filmmaking, and providing actor Michael B. Jordan with yet another substantial stepping stone on his climb to stardom. Yet the biggest surprise may be Sylvester Stallone: Appearing in the first “Rocky” film that he didn’t also write — and the first in which he takes on a supporting role — the veteran channels all his obvious love for the character into his performance, digging deeper as an actor than he has in years.

Screen Crush - Matt Singer

The setup — written by director Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington — cannily bridges the old and the new, reworking the classic Rocky formula without trotting out all of its clichés. There’s very little of the pandering fan service one might expect from a movie about Apollo Creed’s son...Rocky’s not 80 yet. But after the inspiring and electrifying Creed, everyone’s going to want to see what the Italian Stallion is up to at that age.

Coming Soon - Edward Douglas

Sure, it’s nothing new, but [Ryan] Coogler is an incredibly skilled filmmaker and storyteller who makes the most of it, using fast-paced hip-hop tracks to keep the energy of the film going while making it feel current... More than just an obvious corporate money grab, Creed is a darn fine boxing movie that’s able to create something new that stands alone, while at the same time paying tribute to the “Rocky” legacy in a way that fans of those movies should thoroughly enjoy.

Mashable - Yohana Desta

After 40 years of Balboa, the Rocky franchise has been given a new life and a brand-new star in Michael B. Jordan, a fighter strong and scrappy enough to carry Sylvester Stallone's torch. Creed is thoroughly modern, thrusting the nostalgic world of Rocky into 2015 while incorporating generous callbacks that'll delight any longtime fans. Director Ryan Coogler obsessively pays homage to his source material as he introduces and electrifies the beloved franchise for a new generation.

Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in Creed

Naturally, not all critics agree that Creed manages to fully overcome its more conventional plot and character elements, as evidenced by the following reviews excerpts:

THR - Todd McCarthy

From the points of view of director-co-writer Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, this marks some major mainstreaming after their bracing 2013 breakthrough with Fruitvale Station; dramatically, it's the same old Rocky formula applied now to the hitherto unknown son of the late Apollo Creed. It worked before and, commercially, looks to work again... [Sylvester] Stallone is stellar in [this] formulaic but solid 'Rocky' spinoff.

The Guardian - Jordan Hoffman

[Creed's] opening act is staggering in its inelegance, but the film keeps pounding through the predictable set-up and storyline until finally, when you think it can fight no longer and will have to throw in the towel, it charges back with some scenes of originality, pathos and, in ever-so-swift jabs, excitement. If you want to put yourself through this punishment, it’s probable you’ll come out the other end finding some merit.

Likewise, the most negative Creed reviews thus far argue that the film amount to little more than a rehash of material from previous Rocky installments, no more or less:

The Wrap - Robert Abele

If 2006’s correctively quieter, old-school charming “Rocky Balboa” felt like a fitting close to an invariably overextended series, you can see why this entry — the first one not written by Stallone — suggested a reason to continue. But instead of playing like the first of a series of Adonis Creed movies, “Creed” never rises above being one more by-the-numbers “Rocky” retread.

Creed TV spot & poster with Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone

Overall, though, it sounds as though Creed should play well with longtime fans of the Rocky franchise - and may even bring in a new generation of fans to the boxing series, too. The film also costars Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) and Phylicia Rashad (Do No Harm) and will be released in theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday frame - so look for Screen Rant's own Creed review, on the movie's opening day next week!

NEXT: Creed Movie Clips

Creed opens in U.S. theaters on November 25th, 2015.

Source: Various (see the above links)

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