Creed begins a new chapter in the Rocky universe.
I wouldn't call it a full reboot, but imagine your IT department removed all of the burdensome Rocky franchise cookies, malware and viruses. Of course, I'm speaking of Talia Shire porn.
In the new Creed universe, Rocky still beat Ivan Drago's ass and singlehandedly ended the Cold War, but Rocky V is probably no longer canon and the scene in Rocky III where Rocky smokes Apollo in a beach sprint after a 6 week training camp in Watts would likely be explained by Apollo having a bunion. I welcome this new realism as I attended a predominantly black junior high and it did absolutely nothing for my 40 time.
Thankfully, Rocky Balboa is also 47% less punch drunk in this universe, effectively transforming him into a cross between the Buddha, Yogi Berra and Fonzi. His evolution into a prudent mentor guided by simple values and the clarity one can only acquire from staring into the abyss and yelling, "Hey, Yo! Is there an echo in here?" gives the film plenty of heart and an occasional pearl of wisdom. You also don't have to hear Sly doing a really bad imitation of Sly anymore.
The plot is this: Creed's troubled, illegitimate son fulfills his fighter's destiny despite his affluence and against the wishes of his adopted mother, Phylicia Rashad Huxtable, by engaging in seedy border smokers, where he treats Mexican club fighters like Donald Trump's security detail. He's very talented but self-taught, as no one will dare train the son of a dead champion, imbuing the boxing world with an illusory ethical fiber that's amusing. His fighting bothers Phylicia Rashad Huxtable because she selflessly loved the lad, sent him to college and wants him to work for Merrill Lynch writing TPS reports for golf pricks.
In fairness, she also witnessed a flat topped Russian butch enough to handle Bridgitte Nielsen in her prime execute her husband in front of her, so her objections to boxing aren't entirely baseless.
But that boy a Creed. Creed gonna fight. Even if he grew up in Calabasas playing with kids named Skylar.
Little Creed (don't call him that, he will drop you) sets off to find his own identity and to enlist his Dad's best frenemy, Rocky, as his trainer. He moves into a tenement in Philly and sets about courting Balboa and the pretty girl who keeps playing loud music downstairs. That girl is Lisa Bonet. It's not Lisa Bonet, but it's Lisa Bonet. She's a musician, her music is def and....she's going deaf. Yes, I know. It works fine in the film, somehow. Creed wins over Rocky and the new girlfriend with persistence, single-minded drive and a good heart. Of course, the real courtship is between Michael B. Jordan and the audience.
The action in the film is entertaining and realistic-ish. Will you get fired up? Yes. Will you shadow box near the concession stand after the film? Possibly. Will you pretend to be Creed while you're running in the park? Likely. Will you be impressed by the coolest slo-mo knockdown in film history? I think so. Will you be inspired to re-watch Angel Heart and see Lisa Bonet again in her prime? No comment.
Daniel Day Lewis's 1997 flick The Boxer (an underrated, great film) still features the most realistic boxing action ever captured on film, but Creed's in-the-action camera angles, the production's wise inclusion of several journeyman fighters and current and former champions (Andre Ward!) willing to take real punches and Jordan's willingness to take a few shots himself lends the film a realism that the increasingly cartoonish Rocky franchise had lost.
I won't spoil the end, but it's satisfying. Just what you'd expect from a Rocky movie.
Excuse me, a Creed movie.