Sequels and spinoffs are generally the most difficult pieces of entertainment to produce. This is mostly due to the incredibly risky and potentially futile idea of creating something better than the original. Spinoffs and sequels are often failures such as “Mean Girls 2,” “Teen Titans Go!” and “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” The reason all these sequels failed drastically is that they did not remotely reach the standard set by the original. The audience wasn’t there and the plot had died. There was nothing to continue. That’s why there’s not a “Titanic 2: The Attack of the Cruises.” However, once in awhile, a spinoff or a sequel is released that does not join the graveyard of failures, but actually rejuvenates the franchise without stealing the old story and just putting in new faces. Writer-director Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” is one of those spinoffs that gracefully and distinctly makes the cut.
Coogler’s “Creed,” opening on Wednesday, is the latest in the 39-year-old, seven film “Rocky” series. The latest installment follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s original opponent, Apollo Creed. It centers around Creed and his aspiration to build a boxing career independent of his father’s while also fighting issues and insecurities in and outside the boxing ring. Telling this story while also attempting to intertwine pieces of the original “Rocky” plot could have very easily turned into a painfully awful exercise but this daunting task was accomplished, much to the relief of long-time “Rocky” fans.
“Creed” differentiates itself from “Rocky” most notably by its beautifully crafted, modern and realistic soundtrack. The 1976 “Rocky” score was mostly comprised of variations of the same horn ensemble and a brief piano solo, with many intense scenes of silence and unaccompanied dialogue. “Creed,” however, provides a seamless mixture of modern music, such as Future, Nas, and Meek Mill, with gentle reprises of the original “Rocky” soundtrack. The decision not to infuse the entire film with “Rocky’s” famous theme was a good decision and was appreciated by the audience.
The “Creed” screenplay, likewise, is refreshingly original and independent of the original. The jokes in the script are genuinely funny. The metaphors, anaphoras, and allusions are distinct and very instrumental to adding layers and depth to the script and the story. The characterizations are distributed beautifully throughout the entire film, and character arcs never stale. Screenplay co-writers Coogler and Aaron Covington neatly reference the “Rocky” plot without allowing it to be absorbed into a mess of conflicting stories. They take the essential pieces from “Rocky” and cautiously place them into “Creed’s” storyline, careful not to hinder the originality of the “Creed” story.
Cinematically, “Creed” meets the standards of 2015 film technique. Audio is consistent, lighting is generally realistic, and the camera work is particularly interactive. It feels as though we’re in a 3D movie. Profile and point-of-view camera shots are particularly instrumental in the overall experience.
Generally, spinoffs are bad and not worth the few hours and twelve dollars it takes to see them. “Creed” is an exception. It’s refreshing, distinct, witty and well-crafted. It’s worth the watch whether you’re a “Rocky” fanatic or you just need something to do before that Black Friday shopping.
Thalia Butts, 16, attends DeKalb School of the Arts and considers “Creed” a heart-warming, laugh-out-loud, tear-jerking soup for the soul of “Rocky” fans new and old.