Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.
You know that when a franchise has hit its eighth installment, either the series has hit its stride and knows exactly what it is doing or it has completely given up and is just cashing in on the nostalgia of previous films. Fortunately for us, the Rocky series moved out of its rough patch many years ago and has entered a new era of cinematic dominance. While not quite as polished as the original film, Creed II has enough exciting action sequences and interesting, dynamic characters to entertain anyone.
The film follows Adonis Creed (Jordan) who has just become the newest Heavyweight Champion in boxing. Meanwhile in Ukraine, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of former superstar boxer Ivan Drago (Lundgren), sees his opportunity to take Creed’s belt and bring honor back to his family name. What is interesting about this fight is that Ivan had killed Creed’s father in a fight in Rocky IV before he was defeated by Creed’s current coach Rocky Balboa (Stallone). With so many emotions leading up to the fight, the end result will absolutely impact the lives of all of these people and their extended families. The thing that makes Creed II so unique is that its biggest strength could potentially be its biggest flaw as well. Regarding the character development, we get some major insight into almost all of the film’s major characters. Whether we see the fallout between Creed and Rocky over Creed’s decision to take this fight, the blooming relationship between Creed and his fiance Bianca (Thompson), and the consequences that the Dragos faced in the aftermath of Ivan’s loss to Rocky, we get to see actual depth to many of these characters and learn details about them that we did now know beforehand. I applaud the film for humanizing the Drago family and making them an incredible sympathetic antagonistic pair. We begin to see character traits that were not present in Rocky IV and we see that Ivan is something more than a steroid-using Soviet fighting machine. The thing about all this character development though is that it takes up a significant portion of the film. This film has a runtime of 130 minutes, and I would argue that at least half of this film is devoted purely to the character development. What this means is that when the final fight between Creed and Viktor happens, it feels very rushed and not as though we get our money’s worth. While the fight is incredibly well choreographed and executed, it feels as though we jump right to the important parts instead of getting the full fight. I think maybe the better approach for this fight may have been to make it a slow burn that eventually pays off, but I understand the decision-making for making this quicker when we learned so much about the people leading up to it. If we did not have the superb performances from virtually all of the featured performers, then I do not believe this movie would have been as well-made as it was. With a fantastic blend of characters past and present, Creed II shows us exactly how to make an entertaining yet emotional sequel.
Overall, Creed II is almost exactly what I was expecting it to be, and that is not a bad thing at all. I was surprised at the depth at which this film went to making its characters relatable and morally ambiguous, so I applaud Caple Jr. for his ability to generate performances that match the tone of the script. When Creed III inevitably comes out, I hope we get these characters develop even further, because this has honestly become one of the franchises that I have the highest emotional investment into. With Jordan in the lead role for the foreseeable future, the only way a film can fail is if it fails from behind the camera, and Creed II does not fail.
Overall Score: 7.5/10