LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Remember Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa's boxing nemesis?
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ROCKY III")
CARL WEATHERS: (As Apollo Creed) You got to remember now, you fight great, but I'm a great fighter.
WERTHEIMER: There's a new film with his name on it, and critic Kenneth Turan reports on the action.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Creed" is billed as a "Rocky" spinoff, but it's actually something more interesting. It's a spiritual remake of the 1976 film that retells the original story in an unexpected and involving way. That's because after all those championship fights, it's easy to believe that this series had fought its final round.
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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Right to the chin.
TURAN: Ryan Coogler, director of the indie hit "Fruitvale Station," had other ideas. He's turned Rocky into a mentor to up-and-coming fighter Donnie Johnson, who just happens to be the illegitimate son of Rocky's rival, Apollo Creed. Donnie, played by Michael B. Jordan, can't shake a restless urge to box. He heads to Philadelphia to seek out the advice and counsel of the Italian stallion. Rocky, a Philly legend, is not hard to find.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CREED")
SYLVESTER STALLONE: (As Rocky Balboa) So the girl said you wanted to talk about something.
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: (As Adonis Johnson) Yeah, I want to talk to you about training me.
STALLONE: (As Rocky Balboa) Training (laughter) I don't do that stuff no more. Sorry about that. Listen, it's getting kind of late, kid, so I'm going to close up.
JORDAN: (As Adonis Johnson) How good was he?
STALLONE: (As Rocky Balboa) Apollo, yeah, he was great. He's the perfect fighter, ain't nobody ever better.
JORDAN: (As Adonis Johnson) So how'd you beat him?
STALLONE: (As Rocky Balboa) Time beat him. Time, you know, takes everybody out. It's undefeated.
TURAN: Donnie, desperate for the formal ring training he's never had, is not easily put off. Before you know it - because there wouldn't be any movie otherwise - Rocky is helping out, cluing Donnie into old-school training methods, like chasing chickens to increase speed. Rocky also dispenses homilies like they were going out of style.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CREED")
STALLONE: (As Rocky Balboa) Your father was special. To tell you the truth, I don't if you're special. Only you're going to know that when the time is right. But you got to work hard. I swear to God, if you're not going to do it, I'm out.
TURAN: Given that everyone works hard within the inevitable boundaries of a venerable franchise - this is a "Rocky" film after all - director Coogler and company do fine work convincing us that nothing we see is preordained, that anything can happen within the four corners of the ring. You can't ask a "Rocky" film to do more than that.
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WERTHEIMER: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the LA Times.
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