Creed is the seventh film in the Rocky saga. It's the first to not be written by Sylvester Stallone, and only the second to not be directed by him (Rocky, prior to Creed, was the only film in the series to be directed by anyone else). It continues the story by having Rocky Balboa train and mentor the son of his first rival, and later close friend, Apollo Creed.
Anyone who's seen a Rocky movie knows that they're not just about boxing. They're about over coming odds, real world and psychological. They also star a main character who's wise and lovable, despite the rough life he's endured growing up in Philadelphia, working days as a mafia enforcer, and spending his evenings training as a boxer. Fast forward six movies later, and everyone Rocky's ever cared about is dead or moved on, and now a kid comes waltzing into his life, asking for Rocky's guidance. It's a perfect set up for a new movie, but does it have the legs it'll need to stand on its own, or will it fail to step out of the shadow that the Rocky series undoubtedly casts? Well, I think it's a bit of both, but the film is still a lot of fun to watch, despite that.
Creed is a love letter to the Rocky saga. It’s chalked full of references to the characters and places of the previous films, and these references don’t feel cheap or forced, but feel natural, as if this is how the series should continue. Rocky is pretty much where we last saw him at the end of Balboa, living in Philly, managing his restaurant, Adrian’s, (named after his now deceased wife) only now Paulie and Rocky’s son are gone too, leaving Rocky even more alone than we’ve ever seen him before. Now, Creed does a great job of reminding us of why we loved the previous films, and that very thing is one of the main reasons it is so hard for Jordan’s Adonis Creed to be memorable after the credits roll, and that thing we loved is on screen with Jordan in almost every scene—his name is Sylvester Stallone playing the once title character, Rocky Balboa.
Stallone fits into the character of Rocky like someone slipping on a comfortable pair of shoes. Every line he says come off sounding honest, and often packs a hidden message about life. It also doesn’t help that Rocky’s character traits and ticks (the bouncy ball, getting people’s attention by calling out “yo,” being so damn nice to everyone) are all so much more interesting than the almost not there character traits of Adonis Creed. Other than being a son of a giant lost in his father’s shadow, there’s very little else to fill Adonis out. It also doesn’t help that this same plotline was a subplot with Rocky and his son in the last film, Rocky Balboa. At times it feels like the film doesn’t really know who it’s star is, or perhaps it does, because when there’s a question of who should be getting the camera’s attention, it almost always seems to be Stallone, which is great for the audience, because Stallone is perfect in this movie, but it does also have the effect of weakening Adonis Creed’s character. By having Rocky always be the rock of positivity that gets Adonis through the film, rather than him having to dig down deep and fight his own inner battles, as Rocky has had to do many times before, we don't get a crowd cheering moment that connects that much more with the character.
Over all, despite never hitting quite as hard as any of the great Rocky movies (Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky Balboa), it does live up to the quality of those films and carries their spirit. Plus, it’s just always great to see Stallone in top form, bringing his most iconic character back to life once again.