I confess I had never seen a Rocky movie before, nor been convulsing with the desire to before this month, and, for all those who find themselves in similar situations, the antidote to your vast lack of enthusiasm is Ryan Coogler’s Creed. Sylvester Stallone returns as the Italian Philadelphian boxer, now retired, but the fight here belongs to Adonis Johnson, aka Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Rocky Balboa’s longtime rival, Apollo Creed. Coogler also co-wrote the script with Aaron Covington, and this is evidently a very personal project. I've written before that remakes, sequels, and otherwise formulaic stories are not aesthetically marked by that status, and do not signify a lower tier of cinematic quality, as some film pundits seem to continually suggest, and Creed is an exemplary illustration of my assertion.
The action kicks off in Los Angeles in a juvenile detention centre where the young orphan Adonis, an inmate, is in a fight with some other boys (all inmates are black). A woman comes to see the duly confined boy and offers to take him in. She is Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Apollo’s widow, who has come to terms with his infidelity and intends to take care of his son. Adonis lives by his mother’s name, Johnson, and we find him again as an adult, fast-tracked on a shimmering career path in banking, and boxing on a Mexican circuit on weekends. Mary Anne tries to discourage him, reminding him of the immense harm it caused his father (among many other horrible instances, Apollo Creed was killed in the ring), but still supports him in his decision to leave his job and California and pursue boxing in Philadelphia.