I didn't freshen up on my Rocky series memory so I can't recall the history. I do remember that Rocky lost against Apollo Creed but managed to stay through all the rounds in the first movie. I think that's about all the knowledge a viewer needs to go into this movie with though they hinted at other happenings, which left me a bit confused. However, this movie stands alone.
The story works as a typical boxing movie with a montage of training and several fights to keep the drama going, all leading up to the final bout, this time in London. The juxtaposition of Rocky's battle with cancer and Adonis's training did add a new level plus the idea of legacy and proving oneself beyond the name we are given.
I thought Michael B. Jordan's performance was stellar and he continues to solidify himself as a movie star. I have enjoyed his acting since back in the first seasons of The Wire and he was certainly not the worst part about this year's bomb Fantastic Four. Whenever he was challenging an opponent in the ring, I was instantly on his side and he made rooting for the character easy.
Sylvester Stallone returns with another great performance as Rocky Balboa, though this time he is too old to put the gloves on and fight. He was the source of the much of the emotion and I'm glad he returned to push his legacy as this tremendous character. I don't think there will be many more Rambo movies in the future but we'll see how Hollywood reboots that franchise.
The directing was also brilliant by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station). This is his second time working with Michael B. Jordan. There is one exceptional fight scene in the middle that has no cuts. It may be one of my favorite boxing scenes in a movie. I hope the rumors are true that he will direct Black Panther because I can tell he would make that movie great. I need to see Fruitvale Station.
Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) also did quite a job as the romantic interest. She is another up and coming actress that will be making waves in the film industry for years to come.
Overall this movie will be considered as a top ten for this year. I think the only hold back is the familiar tale of boxing is such a retread though this movie did everything it could to break the mold.