Your legacy is more than a name
Boxing is a sport of two titans entering a ring and rending closed parts of faces and internal organs with blunt force. It can be such a brutal dance, although in real life it's also a lot of circling and tactically looking for the best chance to drop that hammer of a fist into your opponents jawline for maximum effectiveness. Back in the day, Rocky brought a little something else to boxing besides just an underdog story - a human drama beyond the ring. Take it or leave it, the staying power of the series has proven itself many a time, with the biggest question to most as time goes on "how long can Stallone really be Rocky?" Creed tries to answer that with a new direction, and it's our time to see if it can rise up to the challenge.
A fight breaks out in juvie, and some major punches are being thrown, landing in some confinement for participants. A woman arrives to check on one of the confined - a boy named Adonis. He thinks her another person to send her to a housing, or a social worker - but in reality the woman has a little something else in mind. See, she used to be married to his father - and although he isn't her child and the father is dead, she wants bring him home with her. Time flies by, and it seems that his father's fighting spirit lives on in young Adonis, whose taken up boxing despite his mother's wishes. Although he has a successful job, he just can't stop the drive to fight from guiding his way and he ends up quitting to take on boxing full time. The only real problem is that nobody will take him on to train him, and despite his mothers distress he leaves home to pursue someone who might be able to help.
Up in Philadelphia lives a legend. Adonis finds him easily enough, and asks that Rocky train him. Rocky insists he's out of that game, and after some conversation back and forth becomes convinced that the boy is indeed Creed's. Adonis is persistent though, insisting that he'll be going to the gym and hoping he'll be there to show him the way. He runs into a slight hiccup overnight when he's apartment is invaded by some loud music from his downstairs neighbor. When he goes down to try and get the volume reduced, he's introduced to a lovely girl that he quickly becomes interested in - despite her not turning down the music. At the gym, things aren't quite working out as he planned, largely resulting in him not getting training from anyone and renewing his attempts to get Rocky involved in his training, one way or the other.
He does in fact get some drills he can run out of Rocky, and on the way home one night he finds a familiar face on a poster - that of his lady-interest. Turns out she's a musician, so when the sound starts up, he decides to go down and visit again - this time asking her out for some food. After assuring her it's not a date, he then asks her for where a good place to go would be, and the two grow a bit closer and we learn some of her backstory and both their motivations. It isn't long till Rocky finally ends up feeling compelled to check in on Adonis and his training, and before long gives him the old-school training experience in preparation for his first fight.
Before all else, this movie has some stellar cinematography. Angles, lighting, everything is handled well - but where it shines the most for me is in the ring. Long takes, consistent use of few cuts, and at times even angles all play into the experience and make it flow beautifully - at times as though you were just sitting ringside and watching things going on. This does get shaken up a little when it comes to the final fight, popping in more cuts as time is condensed from the normal match length down to a montage of brutal blows and pep talks. This movie feels like it was crafted to be an enjoyable experience, even if you don't care about drama or boxing.
The effects work helps support what you would expect - injuries look and are treated as though they are mostly real. You've got some blood and spit flying with punches, blows let you feel the impact without any added in special effects, and swollen and beaten body parts look painful as heck. Beyond that, the only major effect that stands out is the boxer-card call outs that happen when a new boxer enters the fray, allowing us to effectively see a characters "threat level" without any extra exposition. When it comes to these and other overlays, it's very much in feel with what you would expect should you be watching something on ESPN or HBO or another televised event, so rather polished.
All of that aside, this is largely a drama - this isn't 24/7 boxing matches. Really, there's only roughly four matches, most of which aren't very long at all. This flows quite in line with the older Rocky movies - at least the one's I've seen - wherein most of the movie's build up to the final fight is character driven drama and training. These movies have something to say more than just "punch a person in the face." This one in particular speaks heavily of legacy and family, of health and control. There are more fights to be had than just that one finds in the ring. Acting helps propel all of these character moments to wonderful levels, and everyone does a great job. If you don't feel some kind of emotion during some of these scenes, I question if you aren't just a robot covered in synthetic skin.
Although it is true that I feel as though the emotional impact can only be helped by a familiarity with the Rocky series, the movie still handles standing on it's own two legs well. New interactions between character build, and by the end it feels like everything has come to a head much like when you suddenly have an epiphany about something you've been thinking about for a while. Acting is great, as are the fights - so groups looking for either or both should be pleased. I'd call it a general worth a watch for most people to be honest, as it handles most it's elements in a well thought out manner, especially when it comes to camera work.