Boxing movies usually follow a cliche script or finds ways to just completely ripoff its far superior predecessor (I'm looking at you Southpaw). Some take stories from real life, while others focus on a down and out person who pulls himself/herself together to fight for a living. The then come together and become the top of their craft. It gets to the point where the stories get boring. They're predictable, sappy, boring, etc. Creed might steal some cliches from boxing movies or previous rocky movies, but mostly it throws all the other cliches out the window. This gives audiences a refreshing take on the Boxing genre and a great movie in a long time.
Both of Adonis Johnson's (Michael B. Jordan) parents weren't around when he was growing up. His aggressive and insurgent nature has caused him to get a bad-rap in the foster home that he lives in. His life suddenly changed when the wife of Apolo Creed comes in to adopt him. Apolo had cheated on Johnson's mom and left Creed's mom before he was born. He can now lives the life he's always wanted or maybe not. He's always wanted to follow the footsteps of his father without getting there with his name. He meets up with Rocky (Sylevester Stallone) to get him to train him and eventually is able to get into the sport he loves.
Creed exceeds past its predecessors (besides the first one) because it does a great job of combining both the amazing parts of the Rocky series while giving audiences a new and fresh take. It doesn't want to ride the coattails of the past while still still staying true to the name, and the movie gives us those moments that made the franchise great. This small little awesomeness of irony in the story, is just one of the great things Creed does. Creed the movie doesn't want to be great because of their name while Johnson also doesn't want to get into boxing because of his name. It's an interesting parallel that really shows us that the director really does get it. He knows what the fans of the series want, while pulling in a new generation of fans.
The best part of the movie is the acting within the grittiness of the movie. The movie has those amazing corny moments that people love from the last films, but the movie is grittier version of it's predecessor. The acting reflects this as Stallone really shows a broken down version of the once great boxer. His idea of knowing that the past is in fact the past, and he can't cope with leaving the past where it is. Also everything he's loved in life has pasted and gone. His career, his family, and his life has been transformed into something different. Both Jordan and Stallone show their acting chomps as their chemistry is great together. The script helps in this but it's really their performances that make you believe that they're this new family. Stallone gives his best performance, maybe even better than the original Rocky. Michael B. Jordan sells that he is indeed a boxer and the direction of those fights were fantastically put together. The cinematography brings to life the fight scenes and it feels extremely real. The choreography is best since the Fighter.
The script helps the movie feel real as well. Johnson doesn't all of a sudden become this amazing boxer. It take months for him to train before his first bout. He has boxing all his life in different countries underground. Nothing about the script screams cliche and it doesn't scream for attention. I simply knows what the fans want and it produces that product onto the screen. Bringing back some of the original actors, characters, set pieces, etc., is something not really done anymore. At least not to the quality of this movie. Overall the script prevails without an overabundance of the Rocky formula, while still giving us that Rocky feeling. Also they answer the question of who won during the third fight of Apolo and Rocky.
Overall, the movie is fantastic. The cinematography shows us the grittiness of Pittsburgh while giving the audience fantastic fight scenes that can rival any boxing movie. The acting sells us on the script as well, with Jordan and Stallone seeming like they've been acting together for years. This might be the most surprising movie of the year to some as well. Creed is the second best Rocky movie of all-time and might be the be the best boxing movie since Ragging Bull. 9/10
Series best to worst
Rocky 4 8.5/10
Rocky 2 8/10
Rocky Balboa 7/10
Rocky 3 5/10
Rocky 5 2/10