The character of Rocky Balboa debuted in 1976. Written by Sylvester Stallone, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Stallone as the battered but tough fighter from Philadelphia, “Rocky” won three of the nine Academy Awards for which it was nominated: Best Direction for Avildsen, Best Editing and Best Picture.
Since then, Rocky has returned again and again – giving Stallone a dependable paycheck if offering, often enough, not much other than a stirring Bill Conti musical score, a series of memorable villains, and the lovable lug himself.
The latest chapter in the Rocky story is titled “Creed.” And while its title character is someone else – the son, we learn soon enough, of Rocky’s first great foe, Apollo Creed – the film is, once again, mostly about Stallone’s Italian Stallion.
Yeah, Michael B. Jordan is a good enough actor. And his back story (being the illegitimate son of a father he never knew, a fact that gives him a chip on his shoulder bigger than the Philadelphia Museum of Art) is appropriate to the genre of boxing film: the talented underdog with a point to prove.
But as with its predecessors, “Creed” is Rocky’s movie. He is the one who makes the difference in the kid’s life. He is the one who suffers a generic plot-driven problem. His storyline matches the young Creed’s at every step. And because we are more familiar with him – we know why his restaurant is called “Adrian’s,” for example – it’s difficult to forget just who the spotlight is supposed to be focused on.
This doesn’t make “Creed” any less of an experience. Young Jordan looks and acts the part of a light-heavyweight contender, and director Ryan Coogler (who directed Jordan in the powerful “Fruitvale Station”) knows how to capture action both in and out of the ring.
But “Creed” is Rocky’s movie. Same as it ever was.