Keith Adams Jr.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well, when fellow LB member Bailey T. Steen said that a movie is so good, he's not kidding. I did not expect to enjoy or be moved by a movie such as this one. It looks like the praise that "Creed" got last year was well deserved. It's also one of those spinoff movies that all other spinoffs should learn from. Next to the original "Rocky" movies, this could be the best in the series. How so? Let's find out.
Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan, in another remarkable performance) is the son of famed boxer Apollo Creed, who, if you never seen "Rocky IV", was killed in the ring after a match with Russian behemoth Ivan Drago. However, Adonis, or Donnie as he likes to be called, doesn't want to live in his father's shadow because he figures life would be much easier if he didn't have his father's name attached to him. While he doesn't want his father's name, Donnie does carry his father's bravado and skills as a fighter. His adoptive mother Mary Ann (Phylicia Rashad) disagrees with her son's choice of profession as she has seen firsthand the physically deteriorating effects that boxing does on the human body and doesn't want the same thing to happen to Donnie while "Little Duke" (Wood Harris), son of Apollo's trainer, echoes that sentiment since his father was there when Apollo was killed. Nevertheless, Donnie lives to fight since all he's done throughout most of his life was fight. So, to become the best fighter that he can be, Donnie travels to Philadelphia to seek out the one man that his father beat, loss to, trained and then befriended, the one and only Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, in a Golden Globe winning and a Oscar nominated performance).
At first, Rocky is reluctant to trained Donnie but he sees that he has his father's spirit and decides to train him anyway. Rocky uses all the training techniques that Mickey and Duke Sr. have used on him over the decades to condition Donnie into a top fighter. In between all that, Donnie finds romance with local musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who becomes the one thing that keeps Donnie going. However, the training takes a fateful turn when Rocky's health is put in danger but he'll stay in Donnie's corner regardless, especially since Donnie decides to go to head-to-head with 'Pretty' Ricky Conlon (Tony Bellow), a dangerous fighter from Liverpool. While Rocky fights for his life with a bout of a different kind, Donnie will fight to make a name for himself while living up to a legacy that he was reluctant to take up to begin with.
"Creed" had a lot of trivial benchmarks that made it unique. For instance:
-It was the first movie in the "Rocky" series not to be written by Stallone ("Fruitvale Station" writer/director Ryan Coogler, a longtime fan of the franchise, wrote the film along with Aaron Covington)
-It's the longest film in the series at 2 hours and 13 minutes
-It's the first film in the series not to have Bill Conti, who scored the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th installment, as the composer (Ludwig Goransson, a film & TV composer as well as a member of Childish Gambino, scores the film and produces several songs for the soundtrack)
-It's the 1st film in the series to be distributed by Warner Bros. who have also teamed up with MGM on films in the "Middle-Earth" and "Barbershop" franchises
-It's the 1st film in the series since "Rocky V" to receive a PG-13 rating whereas the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 6th films were all rated PG.
However, those aren't the only things that make "Creed" unique and special. It's the fact that Coogler was able to craft a story that was equal to "Rocky". Something that was inspirational and emotional while having a realistic grit in the midst of a clean polish. He was able to direct those boxing scenes with such a touch that you feel like you're part of the action, especially in the final bout between Donnie & Conlon. When you see them going at it, you're cheering with the crowd much like you would with a real boxing match. The performances are stellar, particularly Jordan and Stallone. Jordan brings an unmatched quality to his performance, that it completely erases the fact that he was the godawful "Fan4stic" the same year. He should've been nominated for an Oscar. As for Stallone, the only thing I can say this portrayal of Rocky Balboa is this: HE SHOULD'VE WON THE OSCAR! Sly hasn't been this good in a while, mostly due to the fact that he's been busy doing a slew of action movies. This was his defining moment as an actor and he deserved the boatload of acclaim that he got for his performance. An honorable mention should go to Tessa Thompson, who plays Bianca. Thompson went and made a character that was more than just the role of the girlfriend. Plus, the songs that she collaborated on with Goransson and Donald Glover are very soulful.
"Creed" is a remarkable new chapter in the great underdog stories of all time while at the same time, forging a whole new mark of its own. Let's just hope that it stays on that path or they might try to retread everything they did here and we, as a collective, can't see that happen.