Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables 3) is back as Rocky Balboa in the first trailer for Creed, but if the title hasn’t already given it away, Balboa won’t be the central figure in this film. That honor passes to rising talent Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic Four), who will be playing the son of Apollo Creed, a major character in the first four Rocky films—as played by Carl Weathers (Happy Gilmore).
The trailer shows a surprising amount of restraint in distancing itself from many of the familiar tropes of the franchise, including stripping the usual uplifting theme music for a more melancholic and somber score to highlight the gritty, hard-edged nature of this installment. The character of Adonis Creed also appears noticeably different from the hopeful and positive attitude associated with Balboa. Creed seems to live in a world where he is constantly reminded of the death of his father, and the trailer hints at how he may have had to bear that burden for the larger portion of his life. All of these things give Creed a completely new feel from the previous films, which may be in larger part due to director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station). Coogler properly tackled this feeling of near hopelessness and marginalization with Oscar Grant, the lead character in the aforementioned Fruitvale Station, who was also played by Michael B. Jordan.
There are still some appreciated references to prior Rocky films, including Adonis Creed alluding to his father’s third fight with Rocky “behind closed doors.” Audiences will remember that as the final moments of Rocky III, and there’s also the iconic gray hoodie and black winter cap in which Creed trains.
For Stallone, who has been involved in six Rocky films—all of which have had varying degrees of success—Creed will be the first time the actor takes on a supporting role, as Balboa appears set to train the young Creed in this installment. This is also only the third time Stallone hasn’t directed the film himself. Both Rocky and Rocky V were directed by John G. Avildsen (Lean on Me).
Creed was co-written by Aaron Covington and will be released on November 25th. The film will also star Wood Harris (The Wire), Tessa Thompson (Dear White People), and Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show).