Starring Michael B Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby, Milo Ventimiglia
Steven Caple Jr. takes over for director Ryan Coogler, currently working on Black Panther 2. Creed, a box office hit back in 2015, and an awards contender that very nearly nabbed Stallone his first acting Oscar. It’s a new generations Rocky, a prequel that brought old and new fans to the franchise. The sequel doesn’t have such high expectations, it’s goal is to give the audience more of the same. The screenwriters dive into more nostalgia than the first, giving fans of Rocky something to cheer about, bringing Stallone and Lundgren back together. “It’s a publicity stunt,” Thompson’s character says to Adonis early in the film, and she’s right. Pitting Apollo Creed’s son against the family who killed his father is soap opera heaven. Creed II will play’s out exactly like you might expect, little in the way of originality and creativity.
A few years have passed since we last saw Adonis Creed (Jordan), now the boxing champion of the world with his former prize fighting all-star coach Rocky Balboa (Stallone) by his side. His relationship with Bianca (Thompson) has progressed as they begin the next stage of their relationship. That’s when a shadow from the past returns from Russia, challenging Adonis or “Donny’s” new fame. The man who killed his father, Ivan Drago (Lundgren) has trained his son Viktor (Munteanu) to repeat history. The Drago family wants to reclaim their power and prestige by wiping away the disgrace the Balboa/Creed fights caused. Adonis anger and ambition gets in the way of his training, as Rocky refuses to lose another friend. Fighting or family is what Adonis will be forced to choose between.
When it’s over, there isn’t much to discuss, learn or praise compared to other films of the season.
Creed II is a softer film than the original. The focus is less on training and stamina and more on overcoming the demons of the past. Those expecting a lot of fighting should prepare instead for internal torment and drama over blows. There are only 2.5 fight scenes shown on screen, even Caple understands that’s not the heart of the film. Few moments capture the essence of the original, but this installment ends up feeling unnecessary with it’s predictability. Those more interested in nostalgia than high quality filmmaking, will find enjoyment in Creed II when characters from the past resurface, tributes are paid and Rocky footage is shown. Caple doesn’t find as many new ways to present the material, musical training sequences in the desert attempt that, but it’s the same beats just different locations.
Jordan’s performance is solid, but his character hasn’t grown much since the previous film. His anger and pettiness has multiplied despite having a fiancé, loving mother, friends, money and fame. He’s more angry now, and that doesn’t exactly add up. At the end of both films he seems to get his head right until I am sure, Creed III rolls around, with something else he will be distraught over and forced to overcome in 2 hours. Ivan Drago doesn’t say much, its more about his look of intent. What little he does verbalize is “finish him” which makes me think the Russian has been playing too much Mortal Kombat. Stallone’s presence and some of the lighter moments are when Creed II is at its most enjoyable and charming. Yet when it’s over, there isn’t much to discuss, learn or praise compared to other films of the season.
In new hands, the sequel doesn’t quite match the original, leaving this story feeling somewhat unnecessary and emotionless.