In honour of Black Panther, I revisited Ryan Coogler’s Creed – and it’s still magnificent.
“That’s your uncle? He’s white!”
Furious fists fly in Ryan Coogler’s magnificent tribute to Hollywood’s greatest sporting hero. Creed feeds of its franchise’s immortal legacy. The stakes carry that much more weight, the characters feel that much more real. There’s something so powerful about that hook: Rocky Balboa training the son of Apollo! It’s headline-grabbing stuff – almost mythic in nature and dripping with deep-rooted emotional resonance. The film strikes a perfect chord for anyone acquainted with Sly Stallone’s legendary underdog story. The music, the montages, the emotional drama and climactic finale – this is a Rocky film through and through.
And yet, it’s also a Coogler film. An intimate, focused drama about a young man of colour grappling with his identity. Society automatically assumes he should be on the streets, his contemporaries claim he’s lived a life of luxury. He just wants to prove he wasn’t a mistake. Much like how Stallone & Avildsen mirrored 70s working class struggle and pain with Rocky, Coogler crafts a socially relevant tale that reflects modern fears of gentrification, embraces young black creativity, and explores the underlying insecurities of boys who never knew their fathers.
Michael B. Jordan channels fear, passion, heartache and rage into an incredible performance that evokes as much sympathy as it does inspiration. His relationship with Stallone is heartwarming, his chemistry with Tessa Thompson is electric. And his ferocity in the ring is terrifying. The fights are raw and visceral – augmented by Maryse Alberti’s masterfully kinetic camerawork. And when that iconic fanfare swells as Adonis steps into the ring, there’s honestly no place on Earth you’d rather be.
Real talk: Michael B. Jordan’s hair in his next Coogler collab on Black Panther might just be the best-worst thing ever.