Since 2013’s Fruitville Station, Ryan Coogler has seen plenty of artistic and financial success, with films like Black Panther and this one. He’s had a fruitful partnership with Michael B. Jordan, who plays Adonis Creed, the son of original Rocky nemesis, Apollo Creed. It was released on the fortieth anniversary of the original film and earned Sylvester Stallone a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, his first Oscar notice since that very same original movie.
Adonis Johnson is in a Los Angeles youth home after yet another fight when the wife of his father, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) takes him in. Much like his father — who he never met — he dreams of being a fighter. However, because Apollo died in the ring thirty years ago, his adoptive mother opposes him ever putting on the gloves.
After being turned down at the Delphi Boxing Academy, which is managed by the son of Apollo’s trainer Tony “Duke” Evers, our hero sets out for Philadelphia and asks Rocky to become his trainer. This is when we learn a very important part of the mythos — the results of the secret fight at the end of Rocky III were that Apollo beat Rocky in their rubber match.
Now known as Hollywood Donnie, Adonis gets a fight team made up of several of Rocky’s friends and a love interest in Bianca. Word gets out that he’s the son of Apollo Creed and that sets up a match with world light heavyweight champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (real-life boxer Tony Bellew), who is about to go to prison. Donnie will be his final challenger, as long as he changes his name to Adonis Creed.
By all rights, this movie should not work. Yet impossibly it does, beyond expectations. It’s incredibly emotional, particularly after watching every Rocky Balboa movie over the last few weeks. Seeing the once strong and proud boxer battle against not just non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but the loss of not just Adrian — as shown in Rocky Balboa — but now Paulie as well and his son moving away is almost too much to bear.
I love that Stallone was willing to take a back seat for this film, both in the writing and directing, as well as being the star. It’s probably the most perfect film in the series since the first one. The world that’s been built, from the past to today, feels authentic.