As someone who isn’t a fan of boxing, the Creed movies were never really something that caught my attention or interest. And although they are iconic pieces of cinema, I have also never seen any of the previous Rocky films that act as this series predecessor. So really, there just wasn’t anything that ever made me think, “yeah, I want to go see this”. That is, until now. In a recent theatre showing a couple months back, the trailer for Creed III (2023) popped up on screen and really impressed me. Wanting to go see it, I decided to finally check out the first two films so I could be caught up to speed, and I have to say, I had a great time. Creed is a sports drama film directed by Ryan Coogler that serves as a spin-off to the original Rocky franchise. It stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, son of (fictional) boxing champion Apollo Creed, Sylvester Stallone reprising his role as Rocky Balboa, and Tessa Thompson who plays Bianca, Creed’s love interest. Full of so much energy and heart, Creed is a wonderful first instalment to this spin-off series that still pays respect to the original story and characters that people loved for so long.

[Please note this review will contain spoilers; read at your own discretion]

Rocky bailing out Adonis from jail

For those of you that grew up watching the Rocky films or are just passionate fans of the franchise, I’m sure watching the Creed trilogy felt a lot more nostalgic and impactful for you compared to someone like me who is experiencing it all for the first time. While Creed does a great job at setting up the characters and story in a new direction that focuses on Adonis, I could still feel the weight of the previous Rocky films influencing the course of the movie. Not that that’s a bad thing of course. In fact, I think it’s great Creed stays true to the heart of the original films and really captures the essence of Rocky Balboa’s spirit. Because although this film is considered a spin-off and a reboot, it is still labelled as the seventh instalment of the Rocky franchise. So while not having watched those films before heading into Creed did make me feel a bit like I was watching from the outside in, there’s no one to blame but myself for that one and really, it doesn’t take away from the quality of the movie itself. I just think it’s important for me to note that there were a lot of references and callbacks that required me to do a quick Google search – so if you’re like me, you might want to have a phone handy.

But as a whole, Creed was truly so fun and entertaining to watch. I really had a blast with it! Although the story follows the sort of generic underdog quest to victory, the excellent directing and acting provided the film with enough flair to set it apart from other cliché sports dramas. Let’s admit it, we all love a great underdog story and for Creed, the writers did such a good job with a creating a character that clearly had talent, but definitely needed the training and refinement from an established coach. Because my favourite thing about Creed was getting to watch Rocky shape Adonis from nothing into a driven and worthy boxer. I think overall it was a really great origin story for Adonis and they managed to perfectly capture his ambition and motivation. The training montages were absolutely grueling and shocking to witness, but if anything, it’s made me realize and appreciate the athleticism and commitment that goes into boxing. It was cool seeing how the story was focused more so on building Adonis from the ground up because that way, we got to witness all the ups and downs thrown in his path.

Bianca celebrating Adonis' win with him in the ring

And boy oh boy does Adonis get thrown a lot his way as he tries to climb to the top. Something that really surprised me about Creed was how emotional and moving the story really is. From watching Adonis grappling with the loss of his father and fighting for his own name, to learning about Bianca’s hearing impairment, to seeing Rocky getting diagnosed with cancer, it seems like every main character was given some sort of personal challenge that they needed to overcome to become stronger. None of it felt forced or cheesy, and thinking back on the film now, I think it was so crucial that they included these issues because it made the story feel more grounded. It made me love the characters more, it allowed me to connect with them even more deeply, and it made me root for Adonis all the more strongly.

Don’t get me wrong though, although Coogler was able to capture beautiful moments of rawness and vulnerability, Creed feeds off of its extremely thrilling and exhilarating boxing scenes. I’m so impressed by how the film is able to seamlessly jump back and forth between being quiet and emotional, and loud and exciting. Hey, it can even be pretty funny at times! But I still remember the moment the movie panned to the boxing arena for Adonis and Conlan’s first fight – the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Even for me, someone who’s not a fan of watching boxing, it got me feeling amped up and energized for whatever was coming next. I’m always amazed by how movies can capture a certain feeling for the audiences to also experience, and this was a perfect example of seeing that in action.

Adonis Creed running down the street for his training

Since we’re on the topic of boxing in Creed though, I want to quickly discuss how I felt it was portrayed in this movie. Not only did Michael B. Jordan look absolutely amazing, I thought he played the role of a boxer very very convincingly. While I’m sure he underwent a lot of rigorous training for Creed, it’s still so impressive to me that he was able to accomplish what he did. Just watching the way he moved and throwed punches was enough for me to believe that he really was a boxer. Maybe it’s just me and my inexperience with real boxing matches (it definitely is), but in my opinion, the fighting and energy of the arena all felt so realistic. And now since I’ve mentioned “realism”, I have to quickly shout out the make up artists for this film because the bruises, the bleeding, the injuries, they all looked terrifying real. In that final fight between Adonis and Conlan, I was truly shocked (and kind of disgusted!) just by how awful Adonis’ face looked after taking a brutal beating from Conlan. The way his eye was bruising and swelling up looked so intensely real that I had to look away – that’s how good the prosthetics and make up were.

Finally, of course none of what I’ve talked about and complimented the film for could have been done without the fantastic cast. As far as protagonists in a sports movie goes, Michael B. Jordan really nailed the passionate but cocky duality of an athlete. He’s so incredibly charismatic in this role and puts forth an impressively realistic performance as a boxer, but what I was most impressed with was the depth he was able to bring to Adonis. Jordan had such great chemistry with both Stallone and Thompson that those relationships were what really kept me interested in the plot. While I’ve yet to see Stallone in his prime as Rocky Balboa, I really loved what I saw from him in Creed. Despite being retired and never actually boxing in this film, I felt he was just as charismatic as Jordan (he was great at commanding a scene!). I loved the sort of raw and vulnerable performance he gave, and a lot of the more emotional moments were carried by him. Given what I saw, I’m definitely interested in seeing more films by Stallone because I was so impressed by his performance here.

Rocky training Adonis in the ring

With exhilarating action and a heartfelt story driving the characters, Creed was an absolute knock out punch of a first film. Guys, I enjoyed this movie so much I watched Creed II (2018) the very next day (you can expect a review coming soon!). While the boxing and training montages were perfectly executed and exciting to watch, what really captured my heart at the end of the day was the emotional and very human aspect to all the characters. I was invested in their development and really wanted to see things turn out well for them. The cast was amazing together and honestly, their performances helped Creed to be the very best it could be. Given the glowing review I’ve just given Creed, I’ve decided my final rating is going to be 8.5/10. Even if you’re not a fan of boxing, take it from me, this is still a movie and series worth watching – it won’t be a waste of your time I promise. And hey, if you’ve never seen the Rocky films either, don’t worry because it doesn’t really affect your experience watching this movie. Like I already mentioned, a couple of quick Google searches (if you want the extra context) and you’ll be good to go!