Published on December 1st, 2018 | by Curtis Mayfield
Creed II – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on 26th of November 2018
Roadshow presents a film by Steven Caple Jr.
Written by Sascha Penn, Cheo Hodari Coker, Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone
Produced by Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler and Irwin Winkler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Phylicia Rashad and Wood Harris
Music by Ludwig Göransson
Cinematography: Kramer Morgenthau
Edited by Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider and Paul Harb
Running Time: 130 minutes
Release Date: the 29th of November 2018
Few film franchises have a decades-long lifespan comparable to the Rocky series. Sure, there’s the billion-dollar money machines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Fast & Furious speedsters and the Star Wars juggernaut. Yet none of these have endured the highs and lows of the universe that Sylvester Stallone has built. Sly carved out the underdog boxing story in 1976, where it swept up three Oscars, including Best Picture. Over the following years though the inevitable sequels started to make a mockery of the original idea.
There has never been a movie series that has managed to feature such critical darling instalments but then churn out ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ levels of silliness. Remember when Rocky bought a robot maid? It is probably best to forget that. Fast forward to the current century where strange things are happening, including reality TV stars becoming world leaders and kids eating laundry detergent on the Internet.
Another weird occurrence has unfolded: the Rocky series is being told in a serious and respectable way again. In 2015, master director Ryan Coogler showcased his filmmaking chemistry with leading man Michael B. Jordan. When the two came together to make Creed, an off-shoot from the Rocky franchise, they proved there was a worthy story to tell without an aging Stallone in the ring. Instead, we grew to know what happened to the offspring of one of Rocky’s former foes turned best friends, Apollo Creed.
Jordan stepped in perfectly into the shoes of Adonis Creed, the son of the slain Apollo. Adonis was an average office worker who lived off his father’s money and legacy but wanted to make a name for himself in the boxing world. The hockiness is compounded by the fact that Coogler has now been replaced by newcomer Steven Caple Jr. However, the story of adversity that worked the first time still packs a punch in Creed II.
This time around we see Adonis on top of the world. He has successfully defended his world heavyweight championship belt over the three years since we last saw him making a name for himself. His girlfriend Bianca (played by the always amazing Tessa Thompson) is still in his corner too.
The movie does not limit itself to just telling the struggles of Adonis, but also gives Bianca and the other characters their own up-hill battles to climb.
For example, Bianca is attempting to become a professional singer but the deterioration of her hearing is weighing heavily on her career aspirations. This level of character adversity is what makes Creed such a great film series to follow.
There are consequences and continued toil that piece the movies together. It is best to return to the campy and ridiculous Rocky 4 (1985) and the previous Creed, since this sequel recalls both films. One throwback is the return of the evil boxer Ivan Drago (again played by Dolph Lundgren). After years of laying low following his Communism-crushing lost to Rocky, he is plotting a scheme worthy of a super villain.
Bitter and passed his prime, Drago still wants revenge on Rocky. The robot Russian blames the Italian Stallion for all his misery since their last fight; after losing to the hands of an American, Ivan was treated unkindly but his motherland. He uses dirty tactics to pit his mammoth brick wall of a son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), against Creed.
Ivan killed Adonis’ father Creed in a title fight several decades ago, meaning this is a fight that extends beyond a simple grudge match. From this point on the story follows a predictable pattern of losses and triumphs but luckily there’s more than enough skilled actors to compensate for its inevitability.
Michael B. Jordan proves once again that he is going to be one of the acting greats. He plays Creed with the same vulnerability from the first movie. So far, Jordan’s greatest characters have all been cut from the same cloth; they have all grown up as fatherless individuals. It is to the actor’s credit though that throughout Fruitvale Station (2013), Creed and Black Panther (2018) he has played each one differently.
Tessa Thompson is unfortunately relegated to playing the archetype of the concerned boxer’s wife. Thankfully, the writers have still given Bianca enough of her own story to not waste Thompson’s amazing talents. The movie doesn’t call on any great range from Lundgren or Munteanu, and the movie also reiterates a stereotypical view that Hollywood has of Eastern Europe.
We see the father and son Drago team training in rundown cities, while Creed lives it up in California. But this is what the script demands, a contrast between two sides, both hungry for a change and willing to fight anyone for it.
Even though Jordan is clearly the star, each main character has their chance to have their story told, and this includes Rocky. This is unsurprising considering Stallone shares both writing and producing credits on the film. The movie is balanced enough to tell both Creed’s story and Rocky’s struggles with his family life without taking away from the main character’s narrative.
Director Steven Caple Jr. shows that he too is a talent worth watching. He sprinkles in enough exciting training set pieces and original settings to keep eyes glued on the screen, and to transcend some of the most formulaic points.
Watch out for Creed training at a Mad Max-styled desert gym with supposed ’outcasts‘ of the boxing world. The sand-covered training ground has a mysterious untold backstory that would make for an interesting spin-off. Perhaps a possible Mad Max/Rocky crossover is to come?
The biggest triumph for Creed II is its ability to tell a story that slots into the Rocky series perfectly with motivational montages and thumping music that recreates a non-corny version of Rocky for 2018 standards. Check out the soundtrack the next time you need inspiration to hit the gym.
Creed II defies the odds that are stacked against it with a change of director and overcomes the sophomore jinx so that it makes Rocky 4 seem worthy now. It creates a great addition to the series while also being its own singular film that hits hard, fast and heavy.
Summary: It creates a great addition to the series while also being its own singular film that hits hard, fast and heavy.