Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Steven Caple, Jr.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Kramer Morgenthau
WRITERS: Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor
MUSIC: Ludwig Goransson
In 2015, “Creed” surprised audiences as a worthy follow-up and spin-off franchise of the “Rocky” franchise. It was filled with fantastic performances and brilliant direction by Ryan Coogler. It went on to be a critically acclaimed film and a sequel was inevitable even though Coogler couldn’t return due to his obligations to Marvel Studios at the moment with “Black Panther”.
“Creed II” picks up with Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becoming the Heavyweight Champion of the world. His star is rising, but in Russia, Rocky’s old rival Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has been training his son Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) into a rock solid boxing machine. A scrupulous boxing promoter then convinces Adonis to fight Viktor.
The problem is that Adonis finds that Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) will not help him train. This is because Rocky’s biggest regret was not throwing in the towel over 30 years ago, costing Apollo Creed his life at the hands of the senior Drago.
Now, this is where the film suffers from its biggest though easily overlooked flaw: predictability. You know right away that Viktor is going to beat Creed in the first fight. You then know that a rematch will be set up and Creed will train in order to regain his former glory. The movie does not go out of its way to change the formula set up by the franchise.
However, there are some smaller yet unique twists and turns that ultimately make this film a worthy follow-up to the original “Creed”. The first thing that struck me was how much I cared about Ivan and Viktor’s story. Ivan is so blinded by his quest to regain his reputation in Russia through his son that he doesn’t see how much Viktor is just doing all of this for him. It was a surprisingly human story for what was admittedly one of Rocky’s more cartoonish villains back in the 1980s.
In Creed’s world, Jordan once again turns in a perfect performance as Adonis. While the younger Creed has gained some recognition since the first film, he is still trying to figure out where his own legacy lies instead of simply being Apollo’s son. Another aspect that shines through in this movie is his relationship with Rocky.
Jordan and Stallone have an excellent chemistry with one another and Stallone is great at supporting Jordan’s Creed as Rocky. He never steals any of Adonis’ thunder and he definitely co-wrote a script that reminds you that this is Creed’s film, not Rocky’s. This is especially true with Creed’s ongoing love story with Bianca Porter (Tessa Thompson).
The “Rocky” films were great for their action-packed boxing scenes, but they also worked because they told the love story of Rocky and Adrian. Adonis’ and Bianca’s love story is just as genuine in this movie as it was in the first flick and Thompson also turns in another perfect performance.
The boxing matches are unsurprisingly fantastic. They’re very well shot and director Steven Caple, Jr. honors Coogler’s original direction and this movie feels like it seamlessly fits in with the first film. Despite the great boxing scenes, though, I was more happy to see that the film doesn’t forget the very human story of fathers and sons with two strong stories for both the main protagonist and antagonist. Despite being a bit predictable, this is a fantastic sequel and if you’re a fan of these films, then you shouldn’t be disappointed.