Movie Review: Creed II

The rivalry from Rocky IV heats up again with Dolph Lundgren returning

Creed II
Directed by Steven Caple, Jr.
With Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren

The Rocky franchise continues with Creed II, a sequel to 2015’s Creed and the eighth series entry since 1976.

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s long-ago opponent Apollo Creed, has grown up to become a boxer as well.

This new entry connects with 1985’s Rocky IV, the episode that had Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) face dirty Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).

Drago is back, and bitter. He looks like he sank directly into a vodka bottle after losing to Rocky way back when. His sole thought all that time has been revenge.

And, if you remember, Ivan killed Apollo Creed in the ring back in Rocky IV.

Ivan and Rocky are too old to go back in the ring together, but they can pass their ill feelings onto the next generation. Ivan has a son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), a solid mountain of a man that Ivan has been training since birth to be a fighter.

Ivan has Viktor challenge Adonis Creed to a fight.

Much of the plot is all too predictable but handled in a fairly professional manner. Stallone co-wrote the script for this outing, and served as one of the producers. And of course he originated the characters.

He knows the formula and knows the role of Rocky. The films are a roller coaster ride of training, setbacks, emotions and raw conflict.

Creed II is aimed at a cross-generational audience, with the older crowd likely to be pleased to see Lundgren and Stallone back on screen together. One other old face from Rocky IV also turns up.

For the younger crowd, there is a small plot with Creed’s girlfriend, Bianca Porter (Tessa Thompson) pursuing a career as a hip-hop singer. The film’s score is also filled with hip-hop songs, though snippets of the classic Rocky score come up at key moments.

Michael B. Jordan, coming from his success as Killmonger in Black Panther, handles both the physical and emotional aspects of Creed, letting himself get sucked into the revenge plot.

As with all the Rocky films, the emotional story in between the fights is as important as who eventually wins in the ring.

Rocky, seeing himself at the end of a long road, tries to tell Creed what is really important in life. But Creed has to learn these things on his own.

The film tends to rush things. Creed goes from one fight to another rapidly, without a lot of time spent on the training scenes. Rocky, as the trainer, rends to give Zen-type advice in riddles, such as asking who Creed has to prove something to, himself or the crowd.

When the film rushes into the supposed big match with Viktor before the film is even half over, the rest of the structure is clear to anyone who has seen a boxing film before.
But even if there are no surprises, it is fun to sit back and watch Stallone and Lundgren go through the paces. Lundgren, in particular, gives his best performance in a long time.

The two characters are barely on speaking terms though. Their screen time talking together is quite limited. But even staring at each other from different sides of the audience you can feel the heat.

The boxing scenes as a whole are exciting but technically disappointing. They were shot one punch at a time and edited together into action montages that are smoothed over by ringside announcers. The audience seldom sees more than a few seconds before the camera angle changes.

Longer shots could have helped to create more of an illusion that Creed and Viktor were actually fighting, rather than acting out a carefully staged choreography.

Florian Munteanu, like Viktor, towers over Creed and looks physically unstoppable. His acting range though is rather limited. That doesn’t matter so much, as he is just a proxy for his father’s hate.

Creed II, by tying up loose ends from Rocky IV as well as previous entries, is one of the stronger films in the series. If Stallone wants to end the franchise with a bang, this would be a good time to get out.

But if it is a box office success, Stallone might make the same mistake he made with Rocky V, coming back for one sequel too many just to get the easy money.

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