What could be worse than being the son of an absentee father? Try being illegitimate, and having Dad – an iconic boxer – die before you were born. Those are the sizable issues gnawing at the soul of the protagonist of Creed, the sixth sequel in the Rocky franchise.
Directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, the movie wastes no time characterizing Adonis Creed, son of Apollo – the once competitive foe and later friend of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) – as an angry youngster. In Los Angeles, in 1998, Adonis has been using his inherited gift for fighting to forcefully settle disagreements. With Adonis’ mother – Apollo’s paramour – also deceased, the boy has made his way through a series of group homes and juvenile centers.
Potential redemption walks through the door in the person of Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Apollo’s widow. With a beyond-middle-class lifestyle, and a sympathetic attitude, Mary Anne offers the boy a home. Years later, the adult “Donnie” (Michael B. Jordan) is well educated and has just received a promotion at work. But he’s also trekking to Mexico to fight in low-level boxing matches.
With little opportunity to further his natural pugilistic skills on the West coast, he heads for Philadelphia, where he presents himself to Rocky, who’s unaware of the pedigree of the young man seeking his coaching services. But it doesn’t take long for Balboa, now the proprietor of an Italian restaurant called Adrian’s, to jump on board, and for Adonis to establish romantic ties with a supportive female musician (Tessa Thompson).
The climax, of course, will be that required, high-stakes boxing match which, when it happens, does not disappoint. But there’s much more than a punch-out centerpiece here.
Although the road to self-realization and wholeness for Adonis is through fight-loving Mars – epitomizing action, movement, risk and competition – the conduit to Mars is Saturn. Taskmaster Saturn is all about rules – no-nonsense Rocky espouses a strict protocol and total obedience – and focused discipline. And Adonis’ rationale is, once he succeeds in the boxing world through sheer talent, he can truly embrace his paternal roots. The archetypal package involves father-and-son ties, devotion and obligations, as well as establishing one’s identity separate from the father.
Creed does a good job of presenting these challenges. Mary Anne tells Adonis that being his father’s son doesn’t mean the boy literally has to be him. Rocky tells Adonis his toughest opponent is himself. And Adonis doubts his abilities: “I’m afraid of taking on the name and losing,” he tells Mary Anne. “Fake Creed.” Then there’s the matter of all those names in his arsenal. Adonis. Donnie. Creed. Johnson. Talk about an identity crisis. (In a nice touch, Mary Anne resolves the issue with a gift of boxing trunks, and an exhortation to build his own reputation.)
Legacy and the Lunar archetype of family – ties established not only through blood, but by surrogacy and affection – figure big here, especially when Rocky becomes ill and it’s Adonis’ turn to step up to the plate.
Adonis’ emotionally delivered mission statement is, “I’ve got to prove I’m not a mistake.” Creed underscores, with not one false note, that if one’s true father, represented by the archetypal Sun, is not in the picture, then connecting with someone like a father is a valid route to wholeness. That Rocky Balboa is one shiny, radiant substitute.
Archetype: Father. Son. Family. Fighter. Identity. Discipline.
Astrology Archetype: ☉☽ ♂ ♄ (Sun, Moon, Mars, Saturn)