This time it's not Coogler behind the camera, but sophomore director Steven Caple Jr., working with a strong script from Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone. Adonis (Jordan) is on top of his game, throwing a flurry of fists at champion Danny Wheeler, a now recovered Rocky in his corner, and girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) by his side. With a powerful knockout, he becomes champion for the first time, but with the title comes a bullseye on his back. The person waiting in the wings has a personal connection to Adonis, the man who killed his father Apollo in Rocky IV- Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has trained his own son Viktor (Florian Munteanu), a beast of a man, looking to make his return and regain respect for the Drago name.
Said out loud, Creed II seems like a silly rehashed plot, with callbacks from previous Rocky films, but what Caple Jr. does nicely is blend it all together. The subtext is a movie about what it takes to be a man, a father, a champion, and I was there every step of the way for Adonis' journey. The first fight between Creed and Drago is intense, where this mountain of a man towers over Creed, resulting in Drago's disqualification, but not without breaking Creed's ribs, facial bones, and rupturing a kidney. Adonis is literally broken. It's the recovery part and everything in between that hit me hard emotionally. Creed II knows what matters in life.
The first Creed was an origin story, a changing of the guard, and in many ways a beautiful reminder of why we love Rocky in the first place. This installment is Michael B. Jordan's film. His performance is a fantastic follow-up to his work in Black Panther, to the point where it inspired me. Stallone adds the much needed voice of reason, a father figure that Adonis never had, but when Adonis and Bianca welcome a little one into the world, the boxing stuff does not seem to matter much any more. There is a fantastic interconnection of the stories between Rocky & Adonis’s relationship and the father-son dynamic of the Drago's. Both parties are fighting for something, but only one will remain standing.
Do we get the standard Rocky montages of workouts and rigorous training? Of course. That's a given, maybe even too predictable. Many of Creed II's major problems are when boxing announcers Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman deem it necessary to spell out the emotions for us during fights. Even with those miniscule problems, Creed II is a fantastic crowd-pleaser. The audience I saw it with was cheering and applauding all the way, and I could not help but cheer with them. It may not be as great as Creed, but make no mistake about it, Creed II is a knockout!
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: CREED 2
STARRING: MICHAEL B. JORDAN; SYLVESTER STALLONE; TESSA THOMPSON; DOLF LUNDGREN
DIRECTED BY: STEVEN CAPLE JR.
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
In past reviews of boxing movies, I've mentioned that I grew tired of seeing the same cliched rise, fall, and rise again narrative, about a fighter facing adversity, and overcoming problems to be a champion. Bleed for This, Southpaw, The Fighter, Hands of Stone, those are just a few of the tales of boxing characters (some real-life, some fictional) rising to greatness, and we've repeatedly seen it on the big screen over the last few years. These same rules don't apply for a Rocky movie. Creed II is the eighth installment in the line of films involving Rocky Balboa and the follow-up to Ryan Coogler's spectacular 2015 Oscar nominated Creed. It may not have the artistic merit of it's predecessor, but Creed II still grabbed me emotionally, in a fantastic second step, in what should be a long career for Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed character. Creed II packs a powerful punch for a character ready to take the reins.