Steelehouse Cinephile Fridays: Creed

It’s Cinephile Friday at Steelehouse: time for our team of movie-farers to recommend a film that’s either debuting this weekend in theaters or newly available at home. With the dearth of new releases, we urge you to catch an Oscar-nominated film you may have missed back in December when it entered a vastly crowded marketplace. In spite of it technically being a franchise film, Ryan Coogler’s Creed had everything going against it: a little-known director, the 7th film (!) in a tired franchise, and a title that called-to-mind America’s most loathed rock band. But, being the underdog works for Creed — and it works well.

Young director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) does more than reinvigorate a franchise. He proves that a continued cinematic narrative can pay homage to all of the tropes of its brand while being entirely fresh and unexpected in its approach. In this way, Coogler is the unsung J. J. Abrams of the year: masterfully giving Rocky fans exactly what they want while giving Rocky naysayers a revelatory fresh start to the story. The training montage, the romantic meet-cute, the mid-film prove-yourself fight, the internal wake-up call of memory at the hero’s low point — it’s all there and yet each with a profound narrative twist that shakes up the formula in a galvanizing manner.

As Adonis Creed, Michael B. Jordan cements his place as THE actor of his generation and Sylvester Stallone earns that supporting Oscar nomination with a performance that is both refined in nuance and raw like improvisation. Stallone reminds us of the complexities of Balboa (arguably lost midway through the franchise), forging the third act of an iconic character with both integrity and sadness. It was a risky move by all that pays off for the audience.

Released this week on Digital, Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a perfect choice for your entire family’s weekend home viewing. Triumphant and melancholy, filled with life lessons and great performances, Creed is far better than you anticipated, regardless of how weary you are of its franchise.