After the less than thrilling Spectre and Hunger Games, it was up to Creed to reverse the Fall Flicks slump. I'd been looking forward to the new Rocky flick for a while as the story seemed to be taking the character in a reasonable new direction while injecting some fresh blood. 2006's Rocky Balboa was a solid end to the saga, wrapping up the underdog story by showing the character as an aging, grieving but still hungry man meeting a new challenge. Bringing in former rival turned coach and friend Apollo Creed's son could have been a cheap cash in but franchise super fan turned writer/director Ryan Coogler along with co-scripter Aaron Covington along with stars Michael B. Jordan and Stallone craft an excellent chapter that harkens back to the original's dramatic set up while still delivering pugilistic excitement. Coogler is a tremendous filmmaker as the flick looks slick yet feels authentic and the use of music, slow motion, long takes, etc is superb. While the story treads familiar ground like daddy issues, living up to your name, a convenient yet believable romance; the film is rousing, inspiring, funny and exciting when it needs to be. While I almost shed some dude tears at the end and the film soared at parts, I wasn't engaged the entire runtime. Probably because Adonis and Bianca's (Tessa Thompson) characters and ensuing romance wasn't as endearing as Rocky and Adrian's. I thought it was funny that Adonis Creed's fake name was Donnie Johnson (like Don Johnson, get it? You don't get it...) while wondering why there was no mention of Tony Burton's Duke the Trainer since he raised Apollo then took Rocky under his wing.
Not having to write or direct, Stallone is free to simply act and from his first line of dialog, reminds audiences why they love Rocky in the first place. The $37 million dollar film has already brought in $43 million and there's talk of Stallone being in the mix as Best Supporting Actor come award time. I thought 2006's Balboa was much more convincing with more heart and drama than 2008's overrated yet multi-nominated The Wrestler so here's hoping Stallone gets his critical due this time. It will be interesting to see what direction Creed moves to for a sequel. I vote putting him in the ring with Ivan Drago's son followed up by Michael B. Jordan tackling a sequel/reboot to Carl Weathers' awesomely 80's flick, Action Jackson.