There's a scene in "Creed," where Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan, is watching old videos of his dad, Apollo Creed, fighting. He mimics the moves, as if to say, "I can do this, but better." I feel like writer and director Ryan Coogler is doing the same thing with this movie, having watched the six "Rocky" pictures and wanting to put his own touch on it.
Coogler and Jordan, both in their late 20s, partnered on a breakout indie hit called "Fruitvale Station" in 2013 - a devastating dramatization of a story of street violence "ripped from the headlines," as they say. So their take on a "Rocky" movie is decidedly more gritty and raw.
But while "Creed" is coming from a different place, it still goes through the same paces as a "Rocky" movie with plenty of nods to the previous films.
The result is less fresh, more familiar.
Jordan is a star in the making, and he's excellent here as a young fighter angry at the father he never knew, wanting to emerge from his shadow. But he recognizes his dad knew a thing or two about fighting, and he approaches an old friend of his pop for help.
Sylvester Stallone returns to his signature role for a seventh time, almost 40 years since the first film won the Oscar for Best Picture. His work in "Creed" is one of the best performances he's ever given. He's got a tough and tender delivery that'll break your heart. Stallone was Oscar nominated for playing Rocky in 1976, and the Academy should recognize him again.
The fight scenes are thrilling and stunningly choreographed and one of them done brilliantly with a single take.
"Creed" could lead to a new series of these movies. While "Rocky" became something a symbol of American pride, especially in the mid-80s, "Creed" has the makings to be the voice of a marginalized group with a different perspective on the American experience. And the timing couldn't be better.