The ‘Creed’ franchise has finally come out of Rocky’s shadow

With the exception of superhero movies, the most bankable (if somewhat derivative) assets for major studios right now are legacy sequels and reboots. Sometimes a movie aspires to function as both a sequel And a reboot: a way to give fans what they want from the franchise’s past while looking to its future. The fifth Shout The film, itself a legacy sequel to the reboot, even coined a term for this type of project: the “requel.” Requelle infatuation isn’t inherently good or bad – for every stinker like Ghostbusters: Afterlifethere is always hope that we will have a bold swing like The Matrix Resurrections. But among the many requels that have emerged in recent years, the one from 2015 Creed still deserves to hold the crown or, more accurately, the championship belt.

Directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, Creed channels the underdog spirit of the original Rocky movies while introducing a new fighter from a familiar boxing lineage: Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan), son of the late Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). In the process, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa goes from fighting inside the ring to tutoring Adonis outside. The loved one Rocky hallmarks are always present in Creed– Philly’s training fixture is nothing short of spectacular – even as Adonis seeks to build his own legacy distinct from the boxing legends of yore.

Don’t take anything away Creedwhich belongs to a short list of the greatest blockbusters of the 21st century, but the film was never going to come out of RockyStallone’s shadow completely, especially when Stallone’s eponymous boxer is always around for the ride. For Creed and its sequel, the past and the present remained linked: none other than the son of Ivan Drago was the main antagonist of Creed II. Again, there’s nothing wrong with legacy sequels using franchise staples to their advantage: while not quite as good as its predecessor (admittedly a tall order), the Drago -centric Creed II also earned favorable reviews. But in the long term, it was difficult to get rid of the feeling that the Creed the series would eventually falter if the movies remained beholden to what came before them.

In any case, the last film of the franchise, Creed III, had no choice but to switch from the current Rocky. Stallone, a longtime critic of Rocky And Creed producer Irwin Winkler, was unhappy with the direction the new film was taking. (The bad blood comes from the fact that the actor didn’t own the franchise he helped create.) “It was taken in quite a different direction than I would have taken it,” explained Stallion at The Hollywood Reporter in November. “It’s another philosophy.” Maybe we’ll someday find out what, exactly, drove Stallone away from the show he’s been associated with for nearly 50 years; meanwhile, with his iconic mentor removed from the equation, Creed III is Adonis Creed’s toughest test yet.

Creed III begins with Adonis hanging up his gloves after a bitter rematch against an old enemy from the first movie. Having solidified himself as a legend and champion of the sport like his father, Adonis is ready to spend more time with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a prolific musician who has herself made a career transition from performing to the production, and their young daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Naturally, Adonis’ retirement is disrupted by a figure from his past: Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a former amateur boxer who spent the better part of two decades behind bars for an incident during his teenage years. With his old friend turned into one of the most famous athletes on the planet, Dame hopes Adonis can help him start a belated boxing career. Partly because of the guilt he still harbors over Dame’s incarceration, Adonis is willing to lend a hand.

Of course, anyone familiar with sports movie cliches (or who’s just watched the trailer) already knows that (a) Adonis’ retirement will be short-lived and (b) Dame isn’t just here to take a trip down memory lane. As it concerns Rocky antecedents go, Dame is basically a modern take on Rocky III the villainous Clubber Lang (Mr. T), who went from being in prison to challenging the Italian Stallion in the ring. In fact, the similarities are striking enough that it shouldn’t be too surprising that the introduction of Lang’s son as a new antagonist in Creed III was pitched by Stallone, with professional boxer Deontay Wilder considered for the role. (The fact that this didn’t happen could explain Stallone leaving the franchise.)

But Dame being a character unrelated to the Rocky universe outside of its connection to Adonis works in the film’s favor. For once, the narrative weight of the story rests entirely on the shoulders of Adonis, and by extension on those of Jordan, who makes his directorial debut with Creed III– a bit like Stallone with the first Rocky following. And just like Stallone shaped the Rocky franchise as he saw fit, Jordan has the right to put his own stamp on the Creed series, and for the actor, that means channeling his love of anime into a boxing movie.

Adonis and Lady will not be confused with the Dragon Ball Z duo of Goku and Vegeta, but the anime influence is especially pronounced in Creed IIIThe fight scenes, which frequently use slow motion to dramatize the impact of some of the punches. (Somewhere slow-motion savant Zack Snyder nods in approval.) But the boldest swing (no pun intended) is reserved for the climactic fight, which, in one round, sees Adonis and Dame transported in an empty arena that symbolically carries their common emotional baggage. It’s a more literal take on battling your demons, and it’s arguably the most defining moment of Jordan’s foray into filmmaking.

Love him or hate him, these qualities at least push the Creed movies in a new direction. This is also due to the casting of Majors, a rising star who imbues Dame with the kind of menace and charm that makes the character irresistible to watch, even as he uses shady tactics to achieve his boxing dream. In many ways, Dame’s journey is a reflection of the path Adonis might have taken had it not been for Apollo’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), bringing him home as a child – and all the wealth and privileges of such life entails. All of this leads to a clever inversion of the original Rocky: Adonis, like his father, is an athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his sport, while Dame is the scrappy underdog. In other words, Creed III still has the crowd-pleasing characteristics of a sequel – mixing and matching what has worked in the past to blaze a new trail.

With Jordan already confirming that Adonis’ journey will continue for a fourth film, as well as plans to extend the “Creed-pours” via spinoff – we’ll soon find out how many flowers are left on the rose of the Rocky franchise and its necessary sports movie cliches. (Is it even legal to make one of these films without including a training edit?) But that’s a dilemma for another time: for now, Creed III largely managed to get out of Rocky’s shadow, and Adonis looks more than ready to put in a few more laps before hanging up the gloves for good. Much like his predecessor, Adonis doesn’t go down without a fight.

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