Text Title: Creed
Director: Ryan Coogler
Text Type: Movie
“One step. One punch. One round at a time”
Creed is a 2015 Sports Drama film directed by Ryan Coogler; it is a spin-off but also a sequel in the Rocky Film Series making it the seventh film in the franchise. The plot is simple as it follows a young boy’s journey from being in a youth prison in 1998, to fighting “Pretty” Ricky Conlan 17 years later in Liverpool for the WBC Light-Heavyweight title. The movie starts off in a California youth detention centre in 1998 where there is a fight between two boys, one of them is named Adonis Johnson. Later a lady named Mary Anne Creed visits Adonis and asks him to come and live with him as she was his father’s wife. fast forward 17 years and Adonis has quit his job at Smith Boardley Financial Group to try and fulfil his dream of becoming a professional boxer. After not getting the break he wanted at the Delphi Boxing Academy in Los Angeles, Adonis travels to Philadelphia to try and find his fathers biggest rival; Rocky Balboa. Once Adonis meets Rocky he reveals that he is the illegitimate son of famous boxer Apollo Creed, who was once Rocky’s biggest opponent turned best friend. The movie for a large part focuses on Adonis’s and Rocky’s developing relationship as Rocky trains Adonis for his fights against Leo “The Lion” Sporino, and Conlan. The movie also explores Adonis’s trial and tribulations in Philadelphia as he comes to grip with taking on the famous last name of his dead father and making sure that he can forge his own legacy.
The theme that stood out to me in the movie was family. This is something that Adonis battles with as he never grew up with a father figure as Apollo died before he was born, and his biological mother died when he was still young. An aspect of family that his strong throughout the movie is the last name of Creed, and whether Adonis is willing to embrace it or ignore it all together. This internal battle that Adonis is having with himself is split into three different stages of the movie; these stages are: ignoring and removing himself from the Creed name altogether, starting to understand its importance and how it has shaped him as a person, and finally embracing it and wanting to prove that he is worthy of having a last name like that.
The first time where the viewer sees that Adonis doesn’t know or care about his father is when Mary Anne comes to visit him at the detention centre, and they talk. When Mary Anne asks about his father this passage of conversation begins between the two,
Adonis: I don’t have no father
Mary Anne Creed: What did u say?
Adonis: I said, I don’t have no father
Mary Anne Creed: That’s not true, he passed before you were born but you had a father
Adonis: You knew him?
Mary Anne Creed: He was my husband; Adonis I would like it very much if you would come and stay with me. Do you think you would want to do that?
Adonis: What was his name?
This passage between the two, shows that Adonis does not know anything about his father, and the anger in his voice when he says “I don’t have a father” suggests that whatever he has been told about him is not good and couldn’t be true as we later learn that Apollo died before Adonis was born. This is his attitude for the first part of the film, as he tries to ignore his past and fathers legacy while trying to make it as a professional boxer himself. While still at Smith Boardley Financial Group Adonis travels to Tijuana, Mexico to fight in Pro-Am fights; during his fights in Mexico he racks up a record of 15-0-0. After he quits his job he goes to see family friend Tony Evers who is a trainer at the Delphi Boxing Academy and wants to be taken on by Tony, but Tony refuses as he believes Adonis is not ready. The following conversation then occurs between the two,
Tony “Little Duke” Evers: Kill or be killed people die in there. Your daddy died in the ring. This ain’t no joke
Adonis: I don’t know him. Ain’t got nothing to do with me
17 years after Adonis found out who is real father was, he hasn’t embraced his family history and is trying to distance himself from the Creed name and Apollo altogether. He has a chip on his shoulder where he thinks since Apollo wasn’t around when he was a kid he had to do everything by himself and try to be as good as his Dad. This chip is the motivation Adonis needed as without it he would have never sought out Rocky in Philadelphia to train him. When Adonis begins to train at a gym in Philly, Rocky questions him about how much they know,
Rocky: Do they know you’re a Creed?
Adonis: I don’t go by that. I’m tryna make it on my own. Name’s Johnson.
Rocky: Whose Johnson?
Adonis: Mums name
Even after Adonis has started to take his training seriously and is beginning to form a bond with Rocky, he still is unwilling to take on the Creed name, even though he says it’s because “I’m tryna make it on my own” the viewer starts to get signs that Adonis is actually haunted by his legendary last name and the pressure that has come with that. In the first third of the film, Family is a very strong theme as it drives the plot forward with Adonis’ chip about his last name and doing it on his own. During this time Rocky and Adonis start to form a father-son type of relationship, even though Adonis calls him ‘Unc’ you can tell from his body language and openness towards Rocky that he is that father figure that Apollo could never be. Rocky starts to warm up to the idea of this role and could consider it as a favour to Apollo to train Adonis; as Rocky had the option to stop the fight in which Apollo died in. This part of the movie I can’t personally relate to as, unlike Adonis, I grew up with a father around me and am proud of my family name. Becuase of this though I can put myself in Adonis’ place and imagine my 16 years in this world without a father that helped shape me into the person I am today. This stark contrast and difference between Adonis and myself is very effective as it allows me to appreciate my family even more.
The crux of the movie is where the second part of Adonis’ internal battle with the Creed name takes place. In this part of the movie Adonis begins to understand the importance of his name with the help of his girlfriend Bianca, Rocky, and his trainers. The importance of his last name is displayed to him through Tommy Holiday the manager of Light-Heavyweight Champion Ricky Conlan. Conlan could be going to jail for 7 years over gun charges so Holiday wants his next fight to be a big one; he sees an opportunity in Adonis as his true identity as Apollo Creed’s son was just revealed to the world. When discussing details about the fight Holiday raises a very interesting point to Adonis,
Tommy Holiday: We would need you to change your name to Creed, it’s just a formality
Adonis: And what if I said no?
Tommy Holiday: Then; then there’s no fight. Without the name there’s no fight, it’s a non-starter
This is probably the point in the movie where Adonis realises how much his last name matters to his fighting career. All Adonis wants to do is fight and win; without using his father’s last name he is unable to take opportunities that are presented to him. Possible fights and business opportunities aren’t going to be the reason Adonis will take on the Creed name, but it is certainly that start of the process of understanding and accepting that the name is something he should be proud of and embrace. This understanding is helped by his girlfriend Bianca. While sharing an intimate moment together, Bianca and Adonis ask each other questions,
Bianca: So, what are you afraid of?
Adonis: I’m afraid of taking on the name and losing, they’ll call me a fraud, fake Creed.
With Bianca, Adonis feels comfortable enough to open up about his past with her, this causes the viewer to sympathise with Adonis as he has struggled with telling people about his family history before. His answer of being a “fake Creed” is telling about the amount of pressure he puts on himself to even try and be considered in the same conversation as his father, he has a fear of embracing the name fully for this reason and is why he wants to make it on his own. When he starts to doubt himself and whether he is worth it, Bianca reinforces the idea with him telling him to “Use the name, it’s yours”; with the support of Bianca and Rocky, Adonis decides he wants to be known as a Creed officially and will fight Ricky Conlan under the name of Adonis Creed. This part of the movie shows Adonis’ growth as a character as he has matured from the brash person he was in Los Angeles to an understanding and caring person in Philidelphia. This maturation has come with his willingness to deal with the demons that haunt him; specifically the Creed name.
The final part of the movie is where Adonis overcomes his internal battle and accepts the Creed name as his own. The theme of family is very important in this last part of the movie as Rocky is diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and starts to push away people around him including Adonis, this is the time where Adonis needs everyone supporting him though as he is preparing for his fight against Conlan, and with the added pressure of taking on the Creed name he needs people to lean on. This final part of the film highlights how Adonis has taken on the Creed name and is finally comfortable with being known as Apollo Creed’s son. While visiting Bianca backstage at a concert, Adonis strikes up a conversation with West Philadelphia rapper Tone Trump,
Tone Trump: Aye good luck Baby Creed
Adonis: Don’t call me that
Tone Trump: Don’t call you that, don’t call you what?
Adonis: You just called me baby Creed, I said don’t call me that
Tone Trump: Aye fam dig this I was just showing you love man you don’t got to come off like that
Bianca: Yeah that’s cool that’s cool that’s all love
Tone Trump: Yeah I know it’s cool, you definitely know it’s cool
Adonis: Man who you talking to, you talking real tough you feel me
Tone Trump: You better talk to your little pretty boy boyfriend man. You can get a VIP pass next to your Pop talking to me like that
Adonis hits Trump
Adonis: Fuck you nigga
Here Adonis shows that he really has embraced his last name, as he is defending his dead father and his last name; he does the same later in the movie at his press conference with Conlan.
Ricky Conlan: You a false Creed
Adonis: I’ll show you right now, my Pops ain’t here
This is a full circle from the start of the movie when Adonis was trying to distance himself from Apollo and the Creed name altogether; to now, where he is willing to defend himself against anyone who questions his credibility as a true Creed. In his fight against Ricky Conlan, Adonis is fighting all of his critics and haters, but most importantly he is fighting for his father and his legacy. Although he loses the fight against Conlan, he gains respect from the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world and proves that he is worthy of being known as Adonis Creed. After his fight, Adonis gets interviewed by commentator Max Kellerman,
Commentator: Adonis, I know you never meet your father, but if he was here tonight what would you want to say to him?
Adonis: I’d just tell him that I love him. I know he ain’t leave me on purpose. I’m proud to be a Creed.
This is the conclusion of the three stages that Adonis went through with the Creed name. Adonis wants his father to know that he loves him and that he is proud to be a Creed; all of Adonis’ critics have now seen him fight and push a world champion to the brink of defeat. Adonis is no longer a false Creed. This part of Adonis’ internal battle with his last name is the part that I can personally relate to the most. I fully accept my family history and am proud of it like Adonis. In this part of the film his new family of Rocky, Bianca and his cornermen, all support him and want him to succeed. I can also relate to this as I have a family that supports no matter what; this lets me watch the movie and imagine that I am in Adonis’ shoes, which gives me as the viewer a better experience as it is more realistic.
In conclusion, Creed is a well-constructed movie with multiple themes and exciting plot progression which keeps the viewer intrigued and interested in what is going to happen next. The theme of family and specifically the Creed name is what kept me engrossed in the storylines as until his interview with Kellerman, I never knew whether he had fully embraced the Creed legacy. Personally, I can’t relate to Adonis’ experiences of growing up without a father, but this means that I can watch this movie and imagine how hard life would be without my father supporting me. Fathers not being around for there children also occurs in New Zealand society as I have observed this, particularly in Maori and Pasifika communities.