Rocky Balboa may be one of the great fictional heroes of working-class white America, but his story of a scrappy underdog with immigrant roots is about as universally American as any modern narrative. Sure, maybe it all went a little too far when Rocky destroyed Ivan Drago and single handedly brought down the Iron Curtain with his sincerity and brotherly love in Rocky IV – but at its essence, the Rocky saga is a story of struggle, friendship, and family set against the backdrop of the hardscrabble hoods of North Philadelphia. So isn’t it about time Rocky crossed Kensington Avenue and got a little more color?
Alright, maybe you’re just thinking: “Isn’t six films enough? Why doesn’t Rocky know when to give up?” But this time around, things are a bit different. The upcoming feature Creed, which equates to the seventh film in the Rocky saga, wasn’t even the original franchise’s creator-writer-director-star’s idea. In fact, it was Oakland-born wunderkind director and lifetime Rocky fanatic Ryan Coogler who proposed his vision of a new Rocky to Sylvester Stallone following the breakout success of his debut feature, Fruitvale Station. Coogler, as an African-American and writer-director of Creed, has brought the spirit of the original Rocky to a new, multicultural generation with a decidedly different view of the world.
Creed follows the story of Adonis Creed, the orphaned son of Rocky’s rival-turned-best friend and trainer who was beaten to death by Ivan Drago during an exhibition fight at the beginning of Rocky IV. Adonis is young, hungry, and bitter about the hand life has dealt him, and when he approaches a long-retired Rocky about training him, their personal connection leads to a fruitful collaboration. It sounds like classic Rocky, but just one quick glance at the trailer makes it clear that we’re in a very different Philadelphia from the tight-knit Italian-American hoods portrayed in the previous films.
What’s more, Coogler has brought on half-Panamanian, quarter-Mexican actress Tessa Thompson of Selma and Dear White People to play across Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) as Adonis’ love interest, Bianca. He’s also given a fairly significant role to world-famous combat cutman Jacob “Stitch” Durán, who’s known for his unlikely biography as a Mexican-American field hand turned perennial ringside fixture. Durán has previously acted in a handful of films, but he admitted this is the most substantial role ever offered to him, and expressed great enthusiasm about the project.
Some might still roll their eyes at the prospect of yet another Rocky-related feature, but Creed‘s new vision of the saga might just prove once and for all how timeless and universal the story truly is.
Creed opens in theaters on November 25, 2015.