Release Date(s)2015 (March 1, 2016)
Studio(s)New Line/MGM (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
Nine years after Sylvester Stallone closed out the Rocky series, one of the most popular American movie franchises in history, director Ryan Coogler took up the reins of the series, spinning it off in a new direction with Creed. The film tells the story of Adonis Johnson, a young man who has been hiding from his father’s name and legacy, yet still feels the need to be in the ring. Taken in by Apollo Creed’s widow, she raises him to be something other than a boxer, but he eventually realizes that being a boxer is what he truly wants. Seeking out the tutelage of an older and wiser Rocky Balboa, the two set out to get to the top, with Adonis fighting his demons along the way.
There’s no way in hell that anybody could have predicted something like Creed. It’s a total anomaly, being a sequel of sorts to a dormant franchise, but with a different character in the lead. It has that definitive spark of familiarity while managing to feel completely fresh and new, especially under the loving direction of Coogler, who wanted to make a Rocky movie because of his love for his father and their bond over the series. The movie also came along during a time when sequels and so-called “soft reboots” were happening (the latter being a phrase that I have some definite issues with). Besides Creed, we also got Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, two sequels, but also completely fresh and new.
Creed, by its very nature, is a good, old-fashioned crowd pleaser. It’s your basic underdog story that an audience can truly get behind. Of course, it all means nothing without strong performances, of which the movie has plenty. Michael B. Jordan is pitch-perfect as Adonis, and Sylvester Stallone’s return as an aged Rocky is very moving and understated. There’s also some terrific supporting performances from Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad. And of course, there’s the boxing scenes. As with the best sports films, the sport itself is a byproduct of the real story, which is the relationships between all of the characters, the situations that they’re put in, and watching them both fail and succeed in life, learning a little something along the way. In other words, the real drama is outside the ring, and in turn, the boxing scenes are more powerful because of it. The scenes are also shot much differently than we’re accustomed to, using long, uncut takes at times that focus on the fight from outside the ring, but also getting in close on the action when necessary. It all makes for a refreshing take on something that’s essentially old hat.
Creed, quite simply, is a bit of a master stroke from all involved. It’s the kind of movie that can bring together audiences using only the simplest of techniques and storylines. Let’s not kid ourselves here, we’ve seen all of this before, but because of the way that it’s performed and executed, it makes it more interesting and more special than your average underdog story. You also don’t have to be a fan of (or know everything about) the Rocky movies to get into Creed. It totally works as a standalone movie. The film also benefits from the ideas and aesthetic that have been in place year after year, sequel after sequel, since 1976. Some weren’t as strong as others, but there’s no denying that Creed breathes fresh life into the franchise as one of its top entries, while also rising above it.
Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray presentation of Creed is also something to cheer for. The transfer found here is incredibly satisfying. Shot with Arri Alexa digital cameras, it has the appearance of a very natural, film-like presentation. It’s soaking with fine detail in every respect, with strong colors, deep blacks, and perfect brightness and contrast levels. This is a home-run visually, as well as aurally. It features a variety of soundtracks including English 7.1 DTS-HD; English 5.1 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio; and French, Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. Obviously, most will be hearing it through the 7.1 channel, which is near perfect. The mix is very aggressive, with spatial activity all around from speaker to speaker. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and both sound effects and score are quite powerful. There’s virtually nothing wrong with the A/V presentation and it should leave both average viewers and cinephiles alike satisfied. There are also subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese for those who might need them.
This disc’s only major misstep is with its extras selection. What you get is quite brief and glosses over a lot of the fine details, unfortunately. There are two featurettes: Know the Past, Own the Future and Becoming Adonis. There’s also a set of deleted scenes, a DVD copy of the movie, and a paper insert with a digital HD code. I would have liked to have known more about the pre-production process, as well as the casting and marketing processes, but perhaps we’ll be seeing this title again down the road with more content attached to it... possibly in UHD.
Creed is one of my top ten favorite movies of 2015, as I’ve previously stated. It gets better and better every time I see it. The content never changes, of course, but the characters get deeper, with more nuances than one would notice in only a single viewing. The Blu-ray presentation of the movie is top of the line, and while the extras leave something to be desired, it’s a disc that will sit quite happily on the shelf next to the rest of the Rocky series. It should go without saying, but this one is highly recommended, especially if you haven’t checked it out yet.
- Tim Salmons