Most genres of film have at least a few examples of movies becoming so popular the move beyond the sequel trilogy phase and onto a full-blown franchise. The one possible exception that comes to mind is the sports movie. As if you example of sequels specifically sports themed comedies but as for the serious, dramatic films there’s only one that is been successful to such a degree that it full half-dozen films were made, ‘Rocky’. Some may call the film on the consideration here more of a spinoff the stories and characters make this a true seventh installment in the franchise and brings the beloved character of Rocky Balboa full circle of aspiring young fighter to the battle hardened mentor. Young man hoping for his stardom in the ring just happens to be the son of Rocky’s first major opponent subsequent best friend, Apollo Creed. This film, ‘Creed’ stances is fitting installment this all-American franchise. There are of course many similarities between ‘Creed’ and ‘Rocky’, but they are used to provide continuity in establishing the central theme of the torch being passed to a new generation. This movie stands proudly on its own merits creating its own unique voice and founding its own narrative straight. One way I’ve always found useful to determine whether a movie like this is truly successful is whether or not to be taken out of context of the franchise. While undoubtedly the connections of the Rocky franchise unnecessary this film is crafted with such attention to detail and unique styling that would still be a movie of exceptional merit on its own.
Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) as three strikes against him before he was even born. He was the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, the result of one of his extramarital affairs. In 1998, Donnie was serving time the Los Angeles juvenile facility where he was approached by Apollo’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). In 2015 Donnie walks away from his job at a securities firm intent on following his dream, to follow his famous father’s footsteps and become a champion boxer. Mary Anne is quite concerned with this decision as it brings back the frightening memories when she lost her husband 30 years earlier in the ring. Donnie tries to get a slot at the prestigious Los Angeles Delphi boxing Academy it is turned down. He feels his only option is to go to Philadelphia and seek out the only boxer who could legitimately stand toe to toe with his father, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky is no longer associated with boxing but it’s a proprietor and host of his Italian restaurant name for his beloved late wife, Adrian's. Not long before Rocky had tried a onetime come back but now he is quite content magnanimously greeting customers at his restaurant. For box with any kind of longevity getting older hits harder than for most, cumulative injuries take their toll and most problematic of all years of taking punches has resulted in some brain damage. Eventually Rocky agrees to train the young man at the Front Street Gym.
Find the typical montages for training inserted at this point of the film that are superficially the same as in the first Rocky movie but now the dynamic has shifted as Donnie brings a new energy quicker and more agile as expected due to the natural differences between Rocky, a heavy weight and Donnie, the light heavyweight. The audience is guided into remembering the scenes since at this point Rocky looks more like Mickey (Burgess Meredith) fitting perfectly with Rocky adopting his mentor’ s style of training. Donnie begins renting fights under the nom de guerre of ‘Hollywood Donnie’. Although completely devoted to his training Donnie is still a young man in his prime and soon becomes interested in a young singer-songwriter, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). In the current light heavyweight champion, "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) is being forced into retirement due to a conviction in pending incarceration; Donnie is going to receive a chance to claim the title. By then the fact that he was the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed has gotten out but Donnie wants to make his career on his own not riding the coattails of a fault he never knew. Rocky advises him use the name as a foot in the door assuring him that what comes afterwards resold to be on his own merit. On the bad advice Donnie agrees to fight under the name of "Adonis" Hollywood Donnie" Creed.
Another set of circumstances near the first movie Rocky is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma but because of how chemotherapy failed to help Adrian’s battle against ovarian cancer he declines treatment. Donnie does eventually convince his mentor to continue to embrace life and consent to treatment. The after fight is admittedly pretty much paid for page the same as the after showdown between Apollo Creed Rocky so many decades ago. The difference between a rip-off and homage is exceptionally subtle nuances of the performance and previously established dynamics between the personalities separating the current from previous fights. Overriding theme differentiating Donnie and Rocky is that Rocky had always been fighting for himself, the only way he had to move up from a common thug to a man with respect and the love of his family. In contrast Donnie already had a respectable job that he turned his back on. Having never really known his father is needed to become a champion boxer came solely from within. Once his lineage was known displaced additional pressure on Donnie to prove to the world, and himself, that is talents and drive came from within him not a name on the birth certificate.
Michael B. Jordan must have wanted to prove himself is serious drama after the disastrous film, ‘the Fantastic Four’, replayed the first African-American Johnny Storm. He already proved his abilities as an actor in a supporting role in the television series ‘Parenthood’, where he portrayed the young man trying to overcome past mistakes. This film was the perfect showcase for his considerable talents in a role that required a complexed character with conflicted motivations for success. This will most likely be the last time Mr. Stallone assumes the persona of Rocky Balboa. After the previous film under the character, ‘Rocky Balboa’, or as many refer to it ‘Rocky VI’ their work so much better to have him go out not as an aging boxer but as a man intent to his retirement with the need to give back to another young man was so freely given to him.