Adonis Johnson (Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there's no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed's legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa. Once in the City of Brotherly Love, Adonis tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer. Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo—the fierce rival who became his closest friend. Agreeing to take him on, Rocky trains the young fighter, even as the former champ is battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring. With Rocky in his corner, it isn't long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title…but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?
I'm ten, and I've just watched 'Rocky 4.' I'm in the basement completing a flurry of pushups. Now I'm running around my backyard, pumped. That's the sort of hold the 'Rocky' franchise had on me as a kid. That's the sort of hold it has on me now. Ryan Coogler's 'Creed' provokes similar feelings in 30-year-old me. Coogler has created a cinematic time machine for me. It's tremendous.
Coogler is saddled with a monumental task: take a beloved franchise, along with one of cinema's most endearing characters, and expand on his legacy, all the while introducing new blood for a new generation. Here's a project that could easily go off the rails while trying to walk that tightrope of expectations. However, Coogler – who co-wrote the script with Aaron Covington – is somehow able to introduce a new storyline while keeping all of the franchise's built up nostalgia intact.
As the 'Rocky' saga continues we switch gears from the champ to Apollo Creed's legacy. Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) happens to be the illegitimate son of the once-famed boxer. Creed's widow (Phylicia Rashad) seeks out Adonis, and finds him in a detention center, fighting other kids. He's a headstrong young man. She takes him under her wing.
Now grown, Adonis is the kind of rogue who quits a cushy office job because he can't fathom doing anything else other than boxing. He watches old clips of his dad fighting Rocky. He clearly has some demons to work out. He's determined to make a name for himself and refuses to let anyone know of his pugilistic lineage. He's constantly trying to extricate himself from his father's enormous shadow.
Adonis moves to Philadelphia and seeks out the tutelage of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). At first Rocky is hesitant to take the kid on, but out of a deep respect for his dead friend, he does. Stallone reprises his role with grace and a certain sentimentality that is striking in its emotional heft. It's like he never left.
Rocky finds himself dealing with the effects of age and the inescapable clutches of Father Time. Here's one of the most charming, inspirational characters cinema has to offer, and he's been laid low by the ravages of age. It's a body blow to the psyche. It's an improbable situation. Rocky, the greatest underdog that's ever stepped foot into the ring, is getting beaten down by an unseen force. It's emotionally jarring.
The last thing I expected from 'Creed' was to be on the verge of tears numerous times. Stallone's performance is packed with raw emotion, and perfectly recalls the sweet Rocky of old. He's vulnerable, but resolute. He's constantly fighting with his tortured past, while trying to move on the best he knows how. It's a special performance.
Speaking of special, Michael B. Jordan's performance is just that. Talk about an acting duo that feeds off of each other; Jordan and Stallone have some of the most effective dramatic scenes 2015 cinema has to offer. Jordan establishes himself as a worthwhile character in the illustrious 'Rocky' franchise. That's no easy feat.
Then there's the direction, which is quite something to behold. True to form, 'Creed' exists as one of those boxing movies that doesn't portray what boxing is like in real life. That's okay, because we've all grown used to movie boxing. Most of the hits land, the big final fight must come, and training regimens remain the best montages.
The boxing scenes are expertly filmed. There's one fight where Coogler whips and slides his camera around the action taking in every moment in one seemingly unedited take. Like the acting from his two stellar leads, Coogler's filmmaking doesn't falter once. His intensity and attention to detail thrust the continuing story of Rocky into a new generation all the while paying homage to the wealth of emotion that came before.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set that comes with a 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD. It also comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy and a slipcover.
The 1080p transfer provided by Warner Bros. is something to behold. Coogler's camerawork, along with the deft cinematography from Maryse Alberti, combine to create something unique and interesting. Even though it was filmed digitally, 'Creed' has a lush cinematic quality to it. The filmic texture is stunning.
Clarity is striking. Beads of sweat, rippling muscles, even the shimmering texture of Adonis' American flag shorts; it's all presented perfectly. Shadows are dark, but never crushing. Black areas are inky. Colors are natural, and not encumbered by any unnecessary color grading on the part of post-production. Skin tones are also expectedly lifelike.
Long shots, medium shots, close-ups, all of them feature a wide amount of detail. It's picture-perfect in every way. I didn't notice any sort of aliasing or banding during the entire run. There's nothing here that should keep 'Creed' from earning top honors in the video department.
Yes, the video presentation could be considered demo material, but somehow this audio mix has a step up on it. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is straight up great. This is a continuously immersive mix that understands when it needs to amp it up and when it needs to tone it down. The pinpoint fluctuation in sound, depending on the scene, is the hallmark of this presentation.
We have some wonderfully sounding dialogue here. Even with Stallone's gruff mumbling, each line is intelligible. The directionality of voices are isolated perfectly wherever they need to be (more on this when we talk about the fight sequences).
The fight scenes are something else entirely. Here we get the best the mix has to offer, and it's a lot. The surround channels are alive with crowd noise. Not only that but you can clearly hear, from the rear speaker, Stallone yelling instructions from Adonis' corner. The side channels provide a wealth of ambient noise. As dirt bikes zoom up and down the streets of Philly, the whine of the engine can be heard seamlessly transitioning from rear, to side, to front.
Bass is enormous. The subwoofer really does get a work out. When Adonis comes out to Tupac's "Hail Mary," the entire room shakes. Thundering punches also trigger the low-end pyrotechnics. This is a stellar audio mix all around. It's wholly immersive.
Know the Past, Own the Future (HD, 15 min.) – This is a lengthy interview carousel with cast and crew, but it doesn't quite get past feeling more promotional than anything.
Becoming Adonis (HD, 6 min.) – Here we get to see how Jordan transformed himself into a believable boxer during his year-long training regimen.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 20 min.) – Surprisingly there are a healthy number of deleted scenes (11) included here. Ones of particular interest are Adonis checking out his dad's trophy room and Rocky watching recordings of his old fights. Given the amount of material here, I'm kind of surprised they didn't come out with a director's cut. However, there are a few scenes that were understandably cut and would've bogged down the intensity created by the final cut. Still, these are interesting scenes and should be watched after watching the movie.
Watching 'Creed' a second time brought back all the same emotions I felt while first watching it in theaters. To me, it was the most surprising movie of 2015. The quality floored me. What had the appearance of a studio cash grab, turned into an instant classic in the hands of Coogler and company. It's one of, if not the, best 'Rocky' sequels. Yeah, it's that good.
With demo-worthy audio and video this release comes highly recommended.