‘Creed’ Opens Dialogue on Diversity in Boxing Films; Becomes Holiday Weekend Hit

Film starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone rakes in more than $42 million

Still shot of Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone from movie 'Creed'
(Image: File)

Though “The Hunger Games” latest franchise topped box office numbers with $51.6 million in its second weekend in theaters, “Creed,” which cost $35 million to make, earned $42.6 million over five days. It’s the 10th biggest Thanksgiving debut of all time. The critically acclaimed Ryan Coogler-directed film stars Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), who plays the son of iconic Rocky character—and one of few black leads in the film franchise, Apollo Creed—Adonis Johnson. Polls indicate that the audience for the film has been largely male and over age 25, according to reports.

[Related: 5 Movies to Watch This Thanksgiving Weekend]

“This is a movie that played broadly everywhere,” Jeffrey Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., told NBC News. “You expect it to do well in the big markets and even the medium-size markets, but the small markets were just fantastic.”

The film features Sylvester Stallone’s seventh appearance as Rocky Balboa, but this time he left the boxing to Jordan, serving as his trainer in a sequel that revived the story of Balboa for today’s generation. Jordan, according to reports, welcomed the possibility of another sequel, Creed 2, even before writer-director Ryan Coogler’s new chapter in the Rocky Balboa boxing saga opened to mostly rave reviews.

“A character so rich as this, and the world he’s in, I want to see what happens to him next and what he does,” Jordan said in a recent interview. “Especially the way it ends off, it’s pretty cool. I think with success and time and circumstances, it would be exciting to come back and work with (co-stars) Sly (Stallone) and Tessa (Thompson) again.” The film also featured Phylicia Rashad as Apollo Creed’s widow who takes in Johnson from a juvenile detention home, and breakout star Thompson (“Dear White People”) co-stars as the romantic lead.

Casting a lead black actor in the Rocky franchise has been seen as a welcome refresher for today’s audience, especially with the recent nationwide attention on the treatment and disenfranchisement of young black men.

One reviewer even called the film “silently revolutionary” in its shift to Creed’s legacy versus that of Balboa. “Its groundbreaking feature isn’t that complex: Coogler simply presents us with a genuine rarity, a black boxing hero on the big screen,” writes Ashley Clark for The Guardian. She continues:

“Granted, Hollywood has given us prestige documentaries like classic When We Were Kings (1996), about the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman; and biopics of black boxers in the form of Norman Jewison’s moving The Hurricane (1999), about the wrongfully imprisoned Rubin Carter, and Michael Mann’s stately, if slightly stodgy Ali (2001). But even though black boxers dominated the sport for a significant chunk of the 20th century—black fighters held an almost total stranglehold on the heavyweight title, with a handful of exceptions, from Joe Louis in the 1930s to the Klitschko era of the last decade—the statistics have not been reflected in cinematic representation.”

On social, the film continued to gain support of both the casting of Jordan as well as Coogler’s prowess in reinventing the story without losing its core:

 



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