By Alan Yudman
Remake or reimagining. Either are tricky enterprises. Taking something beloved and making it fresh, or trying to salvage something from the wreckage of failed sequels is a challenge I would not wish on most filmmakers. So, when you are trying to reboot ROCKY how do you do honor the original while making something fresh. Director Ryan Coogler’s CREED is a roadmap on how to do all that successfully. The movie focuses not on Rocky Balboa, but on the illegitimate son of his opponent/best friend Apollo Creed. Michael B. Jordan is Adonis Johnson (he has taken his mother’s maiden name), who bounces from foster home to youth prison because he is constantly fighting. Apollo’s widow shows up and takes him in and gives him the home he never had. Flash forward and “Donny” is still fighting. He is going into Mexico to fight, trying to make a name for himself. Finally, he gives up his education and his good paying job to dive headfirst into the boxing game. To do that he has to move to Philadelphia where he seeks out Rocky. The rest of the film shows Donny trying to learn how to box from the Rock until he is afforded an opportunity to fight the best boxer on the planet much the same way Rocky was first set up with his father. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone have instant chemistry as the student and the teacher. The banter feels natural and familiar. This is the Stallone I love. The wry actor who can play both drama and comedy equally well. This Rocky is almost lovable. Someone you want to root for, just like in the first film. Jordan is such a good actor. He channels Donny’s fury and frustration into a drive to win at all costs. He also plays the tender moments well, whether he is supporting Rocky or wooing his girlfriend played by Tessa Thompson. The thing that made ROCKY so great was you almost (or actually)standing and cheering for him as he battled the superior fighter. This film owns that same territory. Coogler has a deft touch with the material and hits every note perfectly. If there is a film and a hero to root for, it is CREED.
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