If the second trailer for Creed just is any indication, the Rocky spin-off is an underdog story in the classic style of the original. And this time, the fighting won’t just be going on in the ring.
Michael B. Jordan (one of our 2015 Game Changers) is Adonis Johnson, the son of Rocky Balboa’s rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed. Johnson, the trailer makes clear, has spent years bouncing around foster homes, and he initially rejects his father’s mantle. But he travels to Philadelphia to take up the gloves and his father’s legacy, under the tutelage of Balboa himself. Yes, he chases a chicken in a Philly back alley, which in Philly is known as “training.”
Director Ryan Coogler, who directed Jordan’s star turn in 2013’s harrowing Fruitvale Station, is clearly aiming to recapture the gritty, unpolished Philadelphia of the first Rocky film (albeit one with a 21st-century complement of skyscrapers). At the trailer’s opening, Johnson is in jail. He trains in dingy boxing sweatboxes reminiscent of Mighty Mick’s Gym. He runs Rocky’s famous routes through still-hardscrabble South Philly. People root for the Eagles.
And if the trailer’s any indication, the characters themselves mirror the broken-down locale. Paulie is dead. Johnson confronts the fists of his challenger (Tony Bellew) and the tumult of Apollo’s legacy. “I’m afraid of taking on my father’s name and losing,” he tells the one bright spark in the movie, Bianca (Selma‘s Tessa Thompson).
An aging Rocky is “battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring”—an illness of some kind, but it’s not clear what. Even Mary Anne Creed (gamely played by Phylicia Rashad) bears the spiritual scars of her late husband’s boxing career: “You know how many times I had to carry the heavyweight champion of the world up these stairs because he couldn’t walk?” she tells Johnson. “Ribs broken. Nose broken. Eyes swollen shut.”
So yeah, it’s an underdog story. But as a young Philadelphia boxer proved three decades ago, that’s where greatness begins.
Creed hits theaters in November.