Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), light heavyweight contender Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) faces off against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).
While being a sequel to Ryan Coogler’s 2015 spin-off of the Rocky franchise, this is technically movie number eight within the Balboa/Creed narrative. A great many will have been following these films since the John G. Avildsen original, but some will have only gotten in the ring more recently. There are some story elements that echo the trajectory of the Italian Stallion but for the most part, Adonis Creed’s second round is a unique and refreshing bout. It taps into the legacy of previous Rocky films, once again adding layers to the legacy of Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa and their shared story.
We see Adonis Creed discover that the pinnacle of your art can be a lonely place. His pride and fears rear their ugly head once more and while early on it may seem as though this sequel takes the lazy approach and 180’s his arc from the previous movie, I think there’s more here than initially meets the eye. Director Stephen Caple Jr. lacks the nuance and subtlety of Coogler, which actually makes him the right man for this sequel. This is not a subtle movie, nor is it trying to be. That being said, there are several artful flourishes that make this film stand out from the other Rocky movies, but the pacing occasionally suffers in the more dialogue-heavy scenes.
Once more we get the outstanding Tessa Thompson returning as Bianca and Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed. These two women represent the heart and the brain behind Michael B. Jordan’s titular character. Both Creed’s girlfriend and his adoptive mother have weathered the storm of seeing their loved one’s bruised, bloody and raw. Here we are privy to a spectrum of emotions as we hit familiar beats from previous instalments. There’s even a shady promoter reminiscent of the Don King’a’like from Rocky V.
Tapping into the current political climate, it makes perfect sense for Ivan Drago and his behemoth son, Viktor to resurface as the big bads. The shared history between the characters is potent in ways that evoke the worlds of wrestling and soap opera, so if you’re one of those people who thinks Rocky IV is the best Rocky sequel then it’s likely you’re going to absolutely love Creed II.
Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is a solid antagonist and probably the most fleshed out on screen since Apollo Creed. He also seems like an amalgamation of Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang in that he’s ferocious, imposing and unbreakable. An avalanche wrapped in a landslide. His arc is just as important as Creed’s and just as emotionally resonant by the conclusion.
This film represents a culmination of the original Rocky franchise and in many ways, completes arcs for both Balboa and Creed. Short of Stallone wheeling out a long-lost sibling for Creed III, I’d be more than happy if this film saga.
Creed II is out this Friday
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