‘Creed’ Gives Rocky The Sendoff He Deserves

It seems only fitting that in Creed, Rocky Balboa is reunited with Apollo Creed, at least in spirit.

Creed brings Sylvester Stallone back as the aging fighter Rocky, who audiences have loved since 1979’s Rocky (the film was made in 1976 but wasn’t released until 1979), as a mentor to his late best friend’s illegitimate son, Adonis Creed. Carl Weathers appears in archival footage as Apollo Creed, said late best friend and one-time rival of Rocky, and that appearance brings with it some emotionally charged moments in the film.

'Creed' Gives Rocky The Sendoff He Deserves

Stallone himself appeared at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the now-iconic Rocky statue is prominently featured at the bottom of those 79 stone steps that Rocky Balboa launched himself up during the movie that started a beloved franchise. While he was on hand to promote Creed, he said that the film was about more than just a compelling story.

“It’s about grabbing hold of an idea, putting aside your fears, lowering your head and driving forward,” he said, according to MyPalmBeachPost.

Certainly, the idea of never giving up is a theme that has featured prominently throughout the franchise. Whether it was during Rocky’s rise to fame that first put him toe to toe with Apollo Creed or during his stellar matchup with the big Russian Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren, in Rocky IV, meeting and beating the odds even through the hard times has been a running plot line through the franchise.

'Creed' Gives Rocky The Sendoff He Deserves

It is that same reason that brings Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, who is incredible as the hardscrabble boxer) together with his late father’s friend. Although Adonis is a young man making something of a success of himself, particularly after Creed’s widow (Phylicia Rashad) takes him in, he knows deep down there is something missing. He finds that “something” as he participates in underground boxing matches in Tijuana, and soon, the story takes him to Philadelphia, where he runs into Rocky.

Thankfully, Stallone goes for Rocky at his best: an everyman just trying to do right in the world. AMNY Network reports that this is a Rocky who is struggling with illness, and he’s struggling alone. His son is somewhere in Canada (Stallone’s son Sage, who had previously portrayed Rocky’s boy, died in 2012 from heart disease; Milo Ventimiglia played an older Robert Balboa in Rocky Balboa), his beloved wife Adrian left him some time ago, and Paulie (Burt Young) isn’t around either.

Still, Rocky tries to offer wisdom and training to Adonis, who is struggling to find his own identity in a world that was so readily defined for his father. Apollo was a father he never knew. Although Creed plays a little fast and loose with the storyline, it would appear that Adonis Creed would have been little more than an infant when Apollo lost his life fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, which is set around 1985. Creed suggests that Adonis is in his 20s, though this would likely be incorrect, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fans, however, won’t likely care. Creed makes good on delivering a solid film that, while featuring a number of plot points that may well have been overused at times, packs some great tension and punch. Jordan is both sensitive and hungry for a boxing win, Rashad is great as Apollo Creed’s widow, and Stallone seems to return Rocky to his roots as that tough but tender boxer looking to do well as a person, not just a fighter.

Some pundits are even saying that by playing Rocky as the aging fighter offering mentorship to his best friend’s son in Creed, he could be lining himself up for a Supporting Actor nod when Oscar time is announced. While the jury is still out on that, one thing is certain: Creed is sure to provide audiences with plenty of box-office punch.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment]