The "Rocky" movies have been throwing cinematic punches of varying effectiveness for almost four decades. And much like the anticipation for J.J. Abram's new "Star Wars" installment, it seems some fresh blood was the perfect match for a successor.

The "Rocky" movies have been throwing cinematic punches of varying effectiveness for almost four decades. And much like the anticipation for J.J. Abram's new "Star Wars" installment, it seems some fresh blood was the perfect match for a successor.

Writer-director Ryan Coogler conceived a simple but smart way to revive the series, and he reunites with Michael B. Jordan, the breakout star of Coogler's debut, "Fruitvale Station." This combined with a healthy dose of "Rocky" nostalgia makes for a crowd-pleasing new champ.

In a prologue, we meet young Adonis Creed, illegitimate son of Apollo, in a juvenile detention hall as he scraps with a kid twice his size. Apollo's widow (appropriately, "Cosby Show" matriarch Phylicia Rashad) agrees to take the young man into her home.

In the present day, we see a grown Adonis (Jordan) fighting in a low-rent Mexican boxing league. He decides to leave a lucrative day job to seek out a path to making a name in the ring - his own name, refusing to disclose his world-famous father.

He relocates to Philadelphia to train, inevitably seeking out an old family friend in Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).

Coogler lays a solid foundation in "Creed" in a character that is trying to come to terms with a father he never knew. This movie is emotionally efficient, even as it presents a story that we see coming.

This will be a star-making turn for Jordan - good news, because "Fantastic Four" sure wasn't. He gives Adonis complexity without overplaying it: tough, funny, vulnerable underneath.

Stallone also plays into the aging Rocky much better than earlier attempts. Rocky is reluctant to get back in the boxing game, but soon he's dispensing old boxing wisdom that Burgess Meredith's original Mickey would be proud of ("Time takes everybody out. It's undefeated.").

The boxing side of the drama is solid, if predictable (and a bit implausible), and the action in the ring only serves to punctate the story going on outside of it. A side love story even gets some traction, thanks to the casting of Tessa Thompson ("Dear White People").

After a few attempts to restart this franchise, the best move was passing the torch to a new generation. "Creed" is a winner.