Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan triumph in 'Creed'
Rocky gets a nice reboot in Creed, the story of Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) helping a young fighter (Michael B. Jordan) succeed
Drink your eggs and do your one-arm push-ups, people - looks like we'll be going several more happy rounds with "Rocky."
The new spinoff, "Creed," looks like it has legs - a movie that reminds us why we loved the original, made by people who obviously cherish it as much as we do.
"Creed" (in theaters today) takes us back to Rocky the striver, the guy wanting to go the distance, to prove something, if only to himself. This time his name is Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), an L.A. kid introduced to us in a lengthy prologue - illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, disowned, raised in foster homes, adopted belatedly by Apollo's wife (Phylicia Rashad), taken to a home of love and wealth and privilege.
He's bright, hardworking and finds a cushy job in the corporate world, but something's wrong. He spends his weekends in Tijuana, taking sleazy pro fights under a different name, both to inflict pain and to absorb it.
We don't know why, but we get a hint in one of director Ryan Coogler's especially crafty scenes: Adonis projecting one of the Rocky/Apollo fights on a wall, stepping into the frame, throwing punches.
Hold on, though . . . is he mimicking his father, or lashing out at him?
Maybe Adonis doesn't know himself. The road to self-knowledge takes him to Philadelphia, to seek out the one man who can help explain his past and maybe open doors to a future - Rocky Balboa, played again by Sylvester Stallone, in what is surely one of the best performances of his career.
What follows in Philly is a story of, well, brotherly love. The insistent Adonis helps Rocky forget that he's old, sick, ready to check out. Rocky helps the raw, arrogant young fighter find himself in the ring. Stallone's chemistry with Jordan is terrific.
There are more love stories to come - Adonis falls for a singer named Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and this is no throwaway role. With apologies to Adrian, this is the strongest female presence these movies have ever had - Bianca, as much as Rocky, helps the confused Adonis come to terms with his famous name.
And there is the movie's love affair with the city of Philadelphia. Our crappy sports teams got you down? Go see "Creed," and remember what a great city you live in.
"Rocky" was an ode to a knocked-down rust-belt city that needed to get up off the canvas. "Creed" is set in the city we know but others don't - bustling, diverse, cosmopolitan, though one that's traded doo-wop for hip-hop.
"Creed" also restores the intimate scope and emotional scale of the original "Rocky," before the series gave way to the cartoonish iconography of flag-waving, fist-pumping triumph.
There are moments of spectacle here, but they are mostly saved for the final moments. "Creed" packs its bags and heads for England, where Adonis - lured by promoters who like his famous last name - finds himself dangerously overmatched against a tough, motivated champion (Tony Bellew).
"Creed" is a clever blend of old and new, reflected in the story, the shots, the music - the inventive score by Ludwig Goransson uses contemporary sounds and old motifs, and waits until just the right moment to repeat the notes of Bill Conti's famous trumpet fanfare.
When you hear it, you'll want to run up a flight of stairs, three at a time.