If you were disappointed that Sylvester Stallone didn’t win the Oscar the year the first Creed came out, then you’re like me. But don’t worry. Even though Creed II probably won’t get any recognition from the Academy, we are still lucky to be getting a sequel three years later in a year with so-so sequels that haven’t been up to par.
What’s the Story: Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is at the height of his boxing career as has just become the World Heavyweight Champion with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) there in support. But once he’s challenged by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed his father in the ring in the ring 33 years ago, he must face up against him to prove he can beat him.
For me, Creed was one of my favorite movies of 2015, and it was a franchise revamp that nobody asked for, but turned out to be a great surprise. Though I was worried about this follow-up since original director Ryan Coogler didn’t return to write or direct (he was doing a little film called Black Panther) and most the movies in the franchise haven’t exactly been great. But director Steven Caple Jr. (The Land) takes charge with the second installment, and this might not be as great than the previous film, but Creed II still earns a place in being considered a pretty good film to sit through.
Caple Jr. doesn’t have a lot of movies under his name as he’s still starting out in Hollywood, and there’s gonna be a lot more after Creed II. Though comparing him to Coogler seems unnecessary, he made a very well-made sports drama that’s put together perfectly. His talent behind the camera made for an excellent story that never feels stale in which it nearly has the same style from the previous movie. I got to commend Caple Jr. for making this sequel his own here.
The story could’ve gone down in a way that feels a bit generic for the sons of Creed and Drago are gonna duke it out. Turns out, it made sense in here and it didn’t feel pathetic in the process. Thanks to the script by Stallone and co-writer Juel Taylor for having the courage to add character depth into the plot, which was unexpected. Rocky doesn’t feel like Adonis should take on the fight since there’s this strong feeling that it would be a recap of Rocky holding him in his arms. This felt like more of a Creed movie rather than a Rocky movie. Investing with what the characters are going through their lives in ways that are somewhat relatable.
There isn’t one performance in here that wasn’t the weakest link. Once again, Jordan gives another fantastic performance as Adonis just showing why he’s one of my favorite actors working right now. This was more of a mature take of the character when he’s trying not to be part of his dad’s shadow and focus on his own life. Stallone still brings in another great performance as Rocky, and I love his side story about wanting to reconnect with his son.
What I also love about both of these movies is the bonding between Rocky and Adonis as almost father-and-son where Rocky’s there to support Donny to the point where he’s worried about the fight, and for good reason. The relationship between Jordan and Thompson’s Bianca is still memorizing and developed even more in here than the first movie with her once again having another stellar performance in here with a character I really love.
One of the elements that I was surprised they showed was the father-son dynamic between Ivan and Viktor. This didn’t make them out to be this stereotypical Russian family that’s closed-minded and stair intensity, there was some personal drama that’s involved with them personally. Ivan has a sit down with Rocky about how that his country was embarrassed by him after he lost the match between them. So you can see how he wants his son to train harder than him to bring redemption to their name. A movie where they actually humanize the villains? Surprisingly shocked. They did a better job at fleshing out the villain in here than in the original.
And the boxing sequences are just some of the best scenes throughout. Nothing can compare to the fights that Coolger did from before, especially that legendary one-take boxing match, but Caple Jr. still did a terrific job at having these matches feel reel for the audience to be engaged with until that bell rings.
Another way that was a bit better was showing more emotions here. Didn’t think a Rocky movie was gonna make me close to shedding a tear, but they almost did in a couple moments.
As for problems, one of the things that were holding back Creed II was how formulaic it turned out to be. This is the eighth film in the franchise, and if you haven’t any Rocky movie in your life, it basically follows the same formula that doesn’t come off as a big surprise. Also, Ludwig Göransson’s score from before was pretty amazing, but the way it was used to push the dramatic moments didn’t work for me. And most of the pacing leading into the third act was a bit slow.
Although Creed II wasn’t as great as I thought it would be from the first viewing, this is still an enjoyable movie that’s very entertaining from beginning to end. And this is a great sophomore effort for Caple Jr. as a director. So I can’t wait to see what does next. This made me wanna watch Rocky IV right as it was over. Could we see a third installment in the future? I probably don’t need to see one, but we could since it’s gonna make a ton of money based on its opening weekend.
Creed II is predictable and doesn’t come close to being a knockout like its predecessor, but it still exceeded by being a worthy Rocky sequel that’s able to stand on its own.