What does it say about a film-maker when his second film is an inventive take on a familiar story that wins the hearts of critics and audiences, and the first was a sociopolitical feature that told the tragic story of a young man who had his life stolen from him? Unsurprisingly, it says a lot. It says that this film-maker, Ryan Coogler, is an absolute force to be reckoned with. It says he has drive, talent and a flare for contemporary cinema. It says he knows the rule-book but he’s not afraid to toss it out of the window when needed. Creed, the Rocky hit for a new generation, exemplifies the skill of Coogler as a young director who has a bright future behind the camera and a fierce bravery. Sylvester Stallone put his faith in the man, allowing him to direct, write, and develop the story almost single-handedly and it seemingly paid off.
Creed follows Adonis Johnson a.k.a Adonis Creed; the illegitimate child of Apollo, he is ready to prove his worth as a serious boxer, and relocates to Philadelphia to seek out Rocky for personal training Stallone steps up once again as the beloved Rocky Balboa, training Creed and teaching him discipline and respect. Michael B. Jordan – a firm favourite of Coogler – plays the titular boxer, and he’s good. Really good. Jordan was cemented in the minds of most film aficionados following his role in Fruitvale Station. That was an independent biopic exploring the shocking actions of Californian police, this is a blockbuster epic that takes audiences directly into the ring. In both, the actor exceeds expectations and embodies his roles appropriately. As Creed, Jordan exhibits a streak of rebellion and cockiness alongside a quiet gentleness and fragility that only present themselves at the necessary moments. Had the casting been different, the film could have gone down a precarious road.
Coogler is a director with an aesthetic eye, he knows what looks good and what should be where and he’s sure to work with his crew to utilise every aspect of a feature to create a finished product. Lighting is used effectively in the final fight sequence, while the score is important throughout – transcending a change in time and neighbourhood from that of the earlier Rocky films meaning Creed now stands independently (and audience-goers are likely eagerly awaiting a sequel). The film escapes genre cliches and a feeling of unwanted nostalgia by bypassing the cornier elements of 1970’s cinema perhaps seen in earlier efforts to deliver something truly contemporary. That modernism is needed in order to impress a new wave of viewers, but there’s this sense of remembrance that ties the feature together and welcomes back returning fans.
This is solid film-making that simply does not disappoint. At only 29 years old, director Coogler is one to seriously watch as he goes from strength to strength in his career as he takes his time to tell a story through his level of artistic brilliance. See it, love it.