A hard-hitting sequel that goes the distance is the best way to describe Creed II, the eighth entry in the Rocky series and the second of the Creed spin-off films. The sports-drama is directed by Steven Caple Jr. (The Land), screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor from the story by Cheo Hodari Coker and Sascha Penn. The sequel’s cast brings back familiar characters from the Rocky universe, including the legendary boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Rocky IV antagonist Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and the introduction of a new character Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). At first the idea of a film based on Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son avenging his father’s death by fighting the son of the man who killed him didn’t sound too appealing because in Creed Adonis’ arc is him getting out of Apollo’s shadow. But what makes this intriguing is seeing how the film gets around that without undermining the first film. Spoilers after the trailer.
Creed II is filled with strong performances throughout the film that are almost on par with the first film. Stallone was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Creed, and he’s trying to make a case to win it this round. Stallone’s performance as an aging somber Rocky, who has lost everything, is just as good if not better than it was in the previous film. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson have strong outings as well, but they’re not written as strongly as Stallone is. Lundgren gets more dialogue this time than he did in Rocky IV. Lastly, the newcomer Munteanu impresses in his debut motion picture role and is the breakout star of the film. Ryan Coogler was in the director’s chair for the first film, but in this movie Steven Caple Jr. picked up where he left off. The camera angles used in the fights give the viewer a firsthand look of every uppercut and jab. Slow-motion was used brilliantly, which typically fighting movies abuse, and it adds more impact to heavy hits. Caple’s direction made the slugfest brutal and bone crushing with each boxing scene and every spackle of blood or saliva that comes spraying at you.
If you haven’t seen Rocky IV then I would suggest watching it before seeing this movie because there are a lot of callbacks from that film. Ivan Drago, losing everything after his defeat to Rocky, is the best storytelling aspect of this movie. Ivan’s wife and Viktor’s mother, Ludmilla Vobet Drago (Brigitte Nielsen) divorced him and his country shunned him because of the embarrassment that came from the loss to Rocky. Ivan’s son Viktor doesn’t even know his mother, and he grew up having resentment for her. All of these things have led to a passionate hatred that’s built up over 30 years, and Ivan has trained his son into being a vicious boxer and everyone that’s stepped in the ring with him has felt their vengeance. Drago’s revenge aspect of the film should’ve been explored more because it’s more believable than Creed avenging his father’s
who didn’t even know him death.
To harp on that last point a little more this movie would’ve served better served as a Drago film. Their story arc is far more compelling, Creed doesn’t have much to do, and Rocky is treated as the main character. The origin story of Adonis Creed was that he’s the illegitimate son of Apollo and he didn’t know his father and in Creed he fights to get out of his father’s shadow and eventually succeeds. He didn’t even want to change his name to Creed in the previous film, but somehow in this film we’re supposed to believe that he has to take this fight because of what Ivan did over 30 years ago. In contrast, the Drago story makes a lot more sense because Viktor is fighting for his father and their family name because they’ve lost everything since Rocky won 30 years ago. The wrong revenge story is the focus of this one.
Creed is treated as a side character throughout most of the film. There’s a subplot about his baby being born with a condition, but it’s really just thrown in there, it’s not even used as a plot device. Speaking of his baby, the editing between Bianca’s pregnancy and giving birth is the lowest point of the filmmaking aspect. Bianca has a small baby bump and then we cut to Rocky contemplating whether or not to contact his son, and then somehow when it cuts back to Bianca at least 5 months have passed. After Creed has had a fallout with Rocky, that’s pretty much taken straight out of the last film he reunites with Balboa and then Bianca is giving birth. All of these things happen so fast that they might as well have created a montage for them. Ironically, like all of the Rocky films there are a few montages in this one.
Stallone’s portion of the screenwriting may be the reason that his scenes are the most engaging. There are scenes in the movie where he’s just the only character and you forget that this movie is supposed to be about Adonis Creed. The only thing Rocky has left is Creed since Adrian has passed away, he’s lost all his wealth, and he’s estranged from his son Robert Balboa Jr.. When he and Creed have a falling out early on, it makes Rocky an even bigger protagonist because Creed handles the situation immaturely. Logically, it makes sense that Rocky wouldn’t want Adonis to fight Viktor first, because there’s a MASSIVE size (and possible weight class) difference between the fighters, and second, ROCKY SAW IVAN KILL APOLLO IN THE RING 30 YEARS AGO UNDER SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES. When Adonis and Rocky argue over the facts, it’s Rocky who comes off sounding like the sane one.
If this is Stallone’s last bout as Rocky Balboa, then his 40 year run has gracefully come to a close. Personally, I think he’ll end up returning for the inevitable Creed III and, possibly, succumb to his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Adrian Balboa dies off-screen in Rocky Balboa, which was a creative way to give Rocky motivation to return to the ring, but for the franchise’s titular character it will be more memorable for him to die on-screen, especially after 40 years of investment in him. Also, Rocky is more than a character to some, a staple of Americana, after all this role placed Stallone in the Boxing Hall of Fame, and there’s even a real-life bronze statue that millions flock to until this very day.
Jordan’s chemistry with Stallone and Thompson still feels as organic as it did 3 years ago in the first film. There are moments of heartbreak, rehabilitation and triumph between the three, and they come off as real people at times. We get more Rocky than we do Creed, and this film feels more like Rocky VII than a true Creed sequel because of it. There are moments where our titular character doesn’t get much development because of a B-plot with his trainer. The Dragos story arc would’ve been more impactful if their characters were given more time in the film. Eight films deep and the Rocky universe is still at its best when making the fights realistic, even to the point where the lead actor thinks he can fight a former world champion boxer, and that’s what sets Rocky apart from most sports-dramas. Being a sequel is why the screenplay hinders the movie, because Creed’s motivation for this film doesn’t make much sense after watching his arc unfold in the first film. Overall, the film’s predecessor Creed was a flawless victory, a first-round knockout if you will, but unfortunately, Creed II doesn’t pack as heavy of a punch and ends up feeling more like a judge’s’ decision.
[a si a si]
[All Mames Wey]
Creed II was released in theaters November 21, 2018.