The best Rocky film since the 1970’s, Creed has brought the series back to form.

Star Sylvester Stallone wisely takes a back-seat, filling in the mentor role occupied by Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in previous entries, with Rocky Balboa, Stallone’s self-styled boxing legend training Apollo’s son Adonis (Donny, played by Michael B. Jordan) to take on the world.

Donny’s story will be readily familiar to fans of the Rocky saga – a talented yet unappreciated fighter trying to prove himself, while those who got past Rocky II will register with Donny’s attempts to break out of his idealised lifestyle, as Rocky did years before to realise his dream of being the best.

Nostalgic references and flashbacks are made to the earlier films, though Creed stands tall on its own. This is not a remake or reboot in any sense, it’s just a sequel which fits supremely well into the Rocky legend. Old footage of Apollo is played in parts, though the film doesn’t make as direct references to Rocky IV which featured the champion’s death – with Creed’s producers making the clever stylistic choice of erring to the ethos of Rocky and Rocky II, the only sequel to capture the spirit of the first film before the series devolved into light, popcorn entertainment.

Emotionally and technically accomplished, the boxing sequences are some of the best ever captured in modern cinema. It is fairly typical of Rocky instalments and other boxing flicks including this year’s Southpaw to rely on repeat cutaways, quick-edits and crowd shots to shore up the suspense, but Creed lets its fights take place in long, fluid shots that make you feel like you’re right there ringside.

Heralding a natural appeal for fans of the trend-setting zero-to-hero story while easily accessible to those without the faintest notion of the Rocky series, Creed is a surprise and welcome entry into the grand echelons of sports epics. For anyone who tuned into the underwhelming Mayweather-Pacquiao fight earlier this year, Creed is actually worth the price of admission, and this time around, you can believe the hype.

Creed is in cinemas now

Glen Falkenstein on The Big Smoke