The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Since 'Creed' has been out for a while, and this 4K Ultra HD release of the movie follows in the footsteps of its earlier Blu-ray release (which is also included in this combo pack), I'm going to make the assumption that most readers have already seen the movie and will be discussing some plot point spoilers in the review that follows. If you haven't yet seen it and were waiting to hear how the 4K disc measured up before making a purchasing decision, skip down to the spoiler-free technical description that follows. Yo! You've been warned.
Who knew we needed another 'Rocky' movie? Okay, to be fair to the filmmakers, 'Creed' is very much its own thing (a new franchise set within the 'Rocky' universe), but I can't imagine this film being half as good as it turned out to be – and it turned out pretty great – without the return of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. This is a movie about finding out who you are and what you're made of, and while that certainly happens to the title character, it happens to good ol' Rocky as well in a performance that deservingly earned Stallone an Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nod, as well as a Golden Globe win.
After the excellent Rocky Balboa was released in 2006, nobody – not Stallone, not even die-hard fans – expected to see the character again...and why would they? The movie was a great send-off and a bit of redemption for the character after the less-than-stellar 'Rocky V', easily the least of the 'Rocky' movies. Then along came Writer/Director Ryan Coogler, who pitched Stallone the idea for a couple of years before the aging icon finally said "yes." What sold him on Coogler's vision? Turns out it was the release of Coogler's Fruitvale Station, which showed Stallone he wouldn't be turning his beloved character and franchise over to someone who didn't know what they were doing behind the lens.
Coogler selected 'Fruitvale Station' star Michael B. Jordan as his lead, playing Adonis "Donnie" Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed -- who had an affair with Adonis's mother and died (see 'Rocky IV') before Donnie was born. But Mrs. Creed (Phylicia Rashad, replacing Sylvia Meals who died in 2011) finds out about him and raises him as his own. The movie introduces us to a grown Donnie who feels unfulfilled at his high-paying desk job and decides to quit and pursue boxing full time, much to his adoptive mother's disappointment. After being rejected by local trainers in Los Angeles, Donnie heads to Philadelphia, where he hopes his father's former rival and latter friend will teach him.
Although Rocky is reluctant at first (bad memories of 'Rocky V' no doubt!), he finally agrees to train him and it isn't long before Donnie – much like Rocky in the original movie – gets a shot at the title. But tragedy strikes when Rocky collapses during a training session and discovers he has cancer. This cancer storyline was rumored before the movie was shot and confirmed when Stallone tweeted a photo of his office desk, which inadvertently contained the final page of the shooting script (that, naturally, fans blew up and made go viral on the Internet). Count me among those who thought the cancer storyline was a horrible idea, but Stallone makes it work – providing a vulnerability to the character we haven't seen before, along with some great moments where he laments that there's nothing left for him in this world.
Of course, Rocky eventually realizes that he has plenty left to live for, and although he doesn't throw a punch in 'Creed' (aside from the ones he uses to train Adonis in the gym), he does fight, and by the time the movie reaches its moving (and perfect) conclusion atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where it all began), viewers will know they've sat through something very special.
When I first saw 'Creed' in the theater, I thought it was good, but not quite as good as 'Rocky Balboa'. When I watched it again on Blu-ray a few months ago, I enjoyed it more – seeing little moments of characterization that I missed the first time through. Now having watched 'Creed' a third time, my admiration for Coogler's movie continued to grow. A sign of a great movie is one that not only holds up to repeat viewings, but one that allows you to catch new things about it each time through. 'Creed' is such a film. And while I'm as wary about them making yet another movie as I was wary about them making this one, nothing that comes from this point forward will take away from the fact that 'Creed' is a winner by knockout.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Creed' fights its way onto 4K in this 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack. The 4K disc and the 50GB Blu-ray come housed inside a black eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which also includes an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet version of the movie. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop.
There are no front-loaded materials on the 4K disc; however, the Blu-ray is frontloaded with a trailer for BarberShop: The Next Cut, along with an ad for Digital HD movies from Warner Bros. The main menus on both discs have the same standard Warners' design, a still image with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free and, of course, 4K Ultra HD discs are not region coded at all.
'Creed' was shot digitally in 2.8K on Arri Alexa XT cameras and then mastered at 2K for its theatrical release. That means the image of this transfer is an up-convert from the digital intermediate, but you certainly wouldn't suspect that 'Creed' was anything less than full 4K when watching the disc – it looks fantastic and virtually flawless, with only a couple scenes coming off as slightly softer looking than most of the others. It is presented on the 4K disc (as well as the Blu-ray) in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Given the amount of boxing in the movie, it's important that skin tones come off as natural looking, and they do. In fact, there's an overall natural look to the movie that I really enjoyed here – details are sharp, but they don't look sharpened...even though 'Creed' was shot digitally, it has a very film-like look to it overall. There's some very minor noise in some scenes, but you'll have to have a very big screen (or get pretty close to it) to notice it, and it's certainly never distracting.
The HDR aspect of the 4K disc certainly adds some added warmth (in a good way, not in an over-saturated one) to the image, and there's minor things that can be picked up in this transfer that aren't as evident on the 1080p version – such as the smoke hovering in the air above a Mexican ring Adonis is fighting in early in the movie, as well as the fibers of the ring's ropes in that same scene. Black levels are excellent as well, so some of the movie's darker scenes look a little better on the 4K disc.
The best example of how HDR adds deeper color though is when the movie has graphics that pop onto the screen that show a boxer's career stats. The blues, reds, and yellows of those graphics are so much deeper than the Blu-ray and show zero shimmering or stabilization issues. Background imagery (like all the posters and photos that line the walls of the gyms the characters train in) is crystal clear but in a very natural way that doesn't come across as digital sharpening.
The Ultra HD format is still in its infancy and I only own a half dozen titles to date – but among those titles (which, by the way, includes the impressive Deadpool disc) 'Creed' is my favorite so far when it comes to video quality. Because it's an up-convert from 2K and because there's not a huge number of releases to compare it against, I refrained from giving it a reference-quality score, but rest assured it looks really, really good here. Fans of the film certainly won't be disappointed.
Sadly, Warner Bros. has chosen not to give the Atmos upgrade to this Ultra HD release, meaning viewers/listeners get the same (albeit excellent) 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track on the 4K disc that is contained on the Blu-ray. However, to the best of my knowledge, 'Creed's theatrical release wasn't given an Atmos track either, so what's being presented here isn't anything less than what moviegoers got to hear. Since HDD reviewer Aaron Peck already did a great job describing the audio in his review of the Blu-ray release of Creed, I've just copied over his assessment here. However, I did knock off half a point from Aaron's reference-quality score, since the audio is not all it could (and perhaps even should) be, despite the excellence of this 7.1 presentation.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is straight up great. This is a continuously immersive mix that understands when it needs to amp it up and when it needs to tone it down. The pinpoint fluctuation in sound, depending on the scene, is the hallmark of this presentation.
We have some wonderfully sounding dialogue here. Even with Stallone's gruff mumbling, each line is intelligible. The directionality of voices are isolated perfectly wherever they need to be (more on this when we talk about the fight sequences).
The fight scenes are something else entirely. Here we get the best the mix has to offer, and it's a lot. The surround channels are alive with crowd noise. Not only that but you can clearly hear, from the rear speaker, Stallone yelling instructions from Adonis' corner. The side channels provide a wealth of ambient noise. As dirt bikes zoom up and down the streets of Philly, the whine of the engine can be heard seamlessly transitioning from rear, to side, to front.
Bass is enormous. The subwoofer really does get a work out. When Adonis comes out to Tupac's "Hail Mary," the entire room shakes. Thundering punches also trigger the low-end pyrotechnics. This is a stellar audio mix all around. It's wholly immersive.
It should be noted, however, that Warners has added a lot more audio and subtitle options here than the Blu-ray contains. Other than the lossless English 7.1 track, the disc includes 5.1 French Dolby Digital (Parisian), 5.1 French Dolby Digital (Quebec), 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital (Latin), 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital (Castilian), 5.1 German Dolby Digital, 5.1 Italian Dolby Digital, 5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital, 5.1 Czech Dolby Digital, 5.1 Polish Dolby Digital, plus a pair of 5.1 English Descriptive Audio track – one for listeners in the United States and one for listeners in the United Kingdom. The subtitle selection is equally impressive, consisting of English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazilian), Czech, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic.
Note: All the bonus materials listed below appear only on the Blu-ray. The 4K Ultra HD disc is bare-bones. Once again, since Aaron Peck already covered the bonus materials in his Blu-ray review, I've included his description of each again here:
While 'Creed' is technically the launch of its own new franchise, fans of the Italian Stallion are going to love this (final?) chapter of one of the greatest movie characters in American history. While Warner Bros. hasn't done a whole lot with this release in terms of additions over the Blu-ray, the HDR boost that the 4K disc gets is impressive enough to warrant a purchase, even if you've already shelled out for the Blu-ray release. Recommended.