Review: Creed II

2015’s Creed was well received by critics and audiences. It gave new life to the Rocky franchise and even helped Sylvester Stallone get his first Golden Globe. Three years later, Creed II continues Adonis’ journey to the championship and a career following his father’s footsteps.

Steven Caple Jr. (The Land) directs this story that’s infused with a little bit of Rocky 2 but is mostly a mash-up of Rocky III and Rocky IV. It has the story structure of Rocky III and the character motivations of Rocky IV, that includesfew familiar faces.

Underneath all the power punches, training montages, and Rocky Easter Eggs, Creed 2 is a story about fathers.

The film opens with Adonis (Michael B Jordan) on his path to a championship. After the fight, Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) find themselves looking to a life for themselves and contemplate what that means for both of their careers. Viktor Drago (Florain Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), challenges Creed for the title. Viktor is a 6’4” 245lb Ukrainian wrecking ball who has trained his entire life for this moment. Adonis accepts the fight and faces his biggest challenges inside and outside the ring.

Most sports movies, especially the Rocky franchise, have very similar story structures – Creed 2 is no different. The champ faces adversity and has a big showdown at the end vs. a rival that’s difficult to beat. Steven Caple Jr. is able to take that structure and make and interesting film with a thrilling ending. The charming screenlplay by Cheo Hodari Coker helps turn a mundane story into a gripping superhero sequel.

There are a few things that make this movie different than the previous films. The first being Bianca’s presence onscreen. Bianca isn’t just arm candy or emotional support for Adonis, she has her own career and that’s established time and time again. She has an on onscreen musical performance, and she talks about her new record deal and playing festivals. Most importantly, Bianca has equal say about what happens in their lives. Having well rounded female characters is refreshing for a sports movie and I hope we get to see more of it.

The second thing is the story’s emphasis on fatherhood. Adonis is learning how to be a father and his fatherlike relationship with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is tested when he takes the fight. Rocky is also dealing with the ups and downs of his relationship with his son.

The fight between Adonis and Viktor isn’t about them, but about their fathers. Adonis wants avenge his father’s death while Viktor’s relationship with Ivan is more abusive sports dad than loving boxing coach. Ivan Drago and the ghost of Apollo Creed are driving this fight and the two fighters have no choice but to collide. Adonis and Viktor both hope winning the fight will fill a void their fathers never could.

Don’t worry, there still plenty of boxing and workout montages. The workout scenes will make wish you were in the gym every day. The montage of Viktor going through opponents like a hot knife through butter will make you wish you weren’t in the ring. The strongest fight sequence is the final fight between Adonis and Viktor. The sequence shows the physical dominance of Viktor and why he is so dangerous. Caple Jr. does an amazing job making the fight feel like David vs Goliath.

Creed 2 is a lot of fun and delivers everything you’d want from a sports film. It’s entertaining as a boxing film but more interesting as a film about fatherhood. Steven Caple Jr. does an excellent job moving the story along and filling it with humor and engaging characters. The intimacy Creed had during the boxing scenes Ryan Coogler was able to convey is missing. Creed 2’s boxing scenes aren’t bad; they’re just typical for a sports film. It may not have the magic that made Creed so captivating but it matches all the charm and excitement you’d want from a sequel.

Grade: B