In the latest outing of the Rocky series; Stallone takes a back-seat and allows a new set of characters (and filmmakers) to create a charismatic film with all the heart of its predecessors.

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Rocky is a character that after six films (of varying quality) is long overdue retirement and almost gets it in Creed, a film that focuses on the past of the films without getting distracted by its present storyline. A film that is both a reboot and a sequel – a requel.

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Following the young Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), son of Rocky’s longtime friend/rival Apollo, we are able to see the world through a fresh set of eyes and start again in the zero to hero storyline that the original film began with. The decision to have a lead character from a well-off background where he has other options than just to fight also pays dividends as it gives the story extra depth that would have been lost if the cliché ‘rags to riches’ plot had been followed. It also helps nail down a point that is essential to the series; it’s not about the money, it’s about the need to fight.

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And fight he does, in extremely dramatic fashion. The fight scenes are all wonderful to watch making you sit on the edge of your seat as you wonder where the next big punch will come from. One fight scene in particular is amazingly choreographed as the filmmakers somehow managed to do the entire fight in a single take; with the camera moving claustrophobically between the two characters. It is sensational in every sense.

For all its great moments however; the film falls down at several corners. Particularly in the use of it’s most important character Rocky Balboa. Coming into the film as Creed’s trainer Balboa’s arc begins well with him offering sage advice and reflecting on his past; then it’s ruined by the introduction of a stupid and cliché sub-plot that feels wedged in to simply give Stallone more screen time. This sub-plot adds little to the film and for me all it does is detract from the drama of the main storyline.

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The balance of throwbacks to the original series also feels off throughout this film. As discussed in terms of story and themes the film does a great job of this… however in other areas its falls well short. The montage sequence for example feels as if it was thrown in at a whim – ending with Adonis sprinting up a road just doesn’t have the same impact as the famous steps moment.

This happens at several other times with references ruining the tone of the film; the problem isn’t that the throwbacks are bad, it’s that their frequency is off… it’s feel like there is either too many or not enough of these; as if the director Ryan Coogler couldn’t decide whether or not he wanted to include them.

Overall though Creed is a fantastic movie that does a great job of revitalising a tiring franchise, it may not be as ground-breaking as the original Rocky but it offers solid entertainment.

8/10