MGM                132 Minutes                     PG-13

CREED pushes all the same buttons of the original ROCKY and makes this a satisfying re-boot of the saga. It takes the franchise back to its original roots and makes it fresh.This is the 7th installment of Sylvester Stallone’s signature franchise.

Just like the original ROCKY, this is much more than a movie about a boxing match. The fight scenes are the centerpiece and they don’t disappoint. Coogler uses today’s technology to put us in the ring. The camera circles the boxers making us, the audience, third wall.

Cinematographer Maryse Alberti , who also shot THE WRESTLER, let the action do the talking. The audience at our screening was reacting much the same way as original ROCKY crowds did 30 years ago. Cringing as the punches landed and cheering like the fight was taking place LIVE!

This is the first Rocky story not written by Stallone himself. Writer/Director Ryan Coogler convinced Stallone to give up control with both an impressive resume and a life-story pitch. Coogler proved he knows how to put great stories on film with FRUITVALE STATION. He also brought the memory of a very intimate experience to the Stallone’s attention.

When the director was a kid playing sports, his father would put him in front of the TV and have him watch ROCKY II as inspiration before big games. Coogler told Stallone about his father getting sick and how the young man was trying to process the idea of losing someone he loved. That provided inspiration for the story. This is the first script not written by Stallone. He’s been completely protective of the character and was even reluctant to let anyone else direct his own stories.

This time, he not only gave up control, he acted as a mentor and advisor on the set as well as starring in it. Coogler was stuck on how to shoot a massive punch that Adonis has to take from Ricky Conlan, played by real boxing champ Tony Bellew. Stallone told Coogler that Jordan had to take the punch for real! Talk about suffering for his art!

We see Rocky, now old, lonely and melancholy. He has no lust for life, until a young black boxer shows up on his doorstep in Philly. Adonis Johnson, played by Michael B. Jordan, has been fighting since he was in Juvenile Detention in Los Angeles. Rescued by Apollo’s widow, Phylicia Rashad, he throws away a good job and cushy life to pursue life in the ring.

Adonis reveals to Rocky that his real name is Creed. He’s the illegitimate son of Rocky’s arch rival-turned pal, Apollo, who died in the ring before he was born. Jordan also has a direct, personal tie to the themes of CREED. He plays Adonis Johnson, not wanting to use his real last name, so he won’t be compared to his famous father. Adonis wants to have Rocky train him so he can claim his rightful place in the ring.

Growing up with the name “Michael Jordan” he understood. Jordan, the actor, hated his name because he was always taunted and ridiculed whenever he stepped on the court or any ball field. He’s used that as motivation to excel, especially as an actor. His life goal is to become so good at his art that when people hear the name “Michael Jordan” they will ask, “Which one?”

Clint Mansell’s score (THE WRESTLER, BLACK SWAN) also pays homage to ROCKY pushing emotional buttons inserting the original theme to cement the bond between the young fighter and the old man.

Adonis’ love interest, Bianca played by Tessa Thompson (DEAR WHITE PEOPLE) is more than window dressing. Their relationship is believable.

Michael B. Jordan also respects Stallone for his dedication to not only Rocky, but to the sport. Over the years Stallone has taken an interest in boxers and helped not only with money, but his time to help train a number of young fighters. He’s given back to the sport that gave him so much through his films.

Is this worth your bucks? CREED takes its place alongside ROCKY and 2006’s ROCKY BALBOA as the best of the litter. Rocky faces his own mortality, but Adonis gives him the reason to keep going. Is CREED the beginning of a new franchise for an America that looks very different from ROCKY’S 1976? Listening to the cheers coming out of the theaters, don’t count it out.

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