Review: Creed II

Directed by: Steven Caple, Jr
Written by: Juel Taylor, Sylvester Stallone, Sascha Penn, Cheo Hodari Coker
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Wood Harris, Andre Ward
Released: November 29, 2018
Grade: B

Creed II
Released back in 2015, the last film culminated with our new hero, Adonis Creed (Johnson), being narrowly defeated by the reigning champion in his efforts to become the heavyweight champion of the world.  You won’t have to sit through another two hour movie to see if Adonis can get his hands on the title belt.  It’s all taken care of in the first 10 minutes as Adonis capitalises on a string of victories to become the new world champ (and a popular one at that).

The focus then turns to defending the title and “the fight the world has been waiting to see”.  Rocky IV (1985) culminated with Apollo Creed being killed in the ring by Soviet juggernaut Ivan Drago.  Now, Adonis will get a chance to avenge his father’s death by taking on Viktor Drago (Munteanu), a powerful, unpredictable Ukrainian Russian boxer who is also Ivan’s son.  It’s a dream for the promotors and I’d hate to imagine the asking price for ringside tickets.

Like the Rocky movies that came beforehand, Creed II isn’t solely about what takes inside the ring.  There’s a strong emphasis on family and doing the right thing.  Adonis is still with his long-time, Bianca (Thompson), who is pursuing a successful career as a singer despite battling with hearing loss.  Rocky (Stallone) continues to offer wise words as Adonis’s coach but his more difficult assignment involves reconnecting with his estranged son.  A few other characters have a part to play including Adonis’ stepmother (Rashad) and his father’s former trainer (Harris).

There was a freshness to the 2015 reboot but this one feels safer and more predictable.  The longer it goes, the more familiar it seems.  It has an overly nostalgic nature in the sense that it continually makes reference to events that took place in previous movies.  We see photos on the wall in Rocky’s restaurant (which never seems to have any customers), we are provided with footage of fights from earlier films, and we see people opening up as they sit/stand in front of gravestones.  Given so much time is spent reflecting on the past, some current day storylines are neglected such as Viktor’s relationship with his own mother (who wins the prize for the most pointless character).

All of that said, the film is hard to dislike because of the two strong performances from its leading men.  I’m not sure how much time 31-year-old Michael B. Johnson spent training for the role but his body will be the envy of all who see it.  He’s some a long way since his breakout role in Fruitvale Station and given the success of both Black Panther and the original Creed, he’ll be showcasing his acting talents for many more years to come.

72-year-old Sylvester Stallone is at the tail end of a long career.  There have been a few flops along the way but his droopy look and slurred speech have always made him the perfect fit as Rocky Balboa.  He doesn’t mind wallowing in a bit of self-pity but he’s created such a likeable character and it’s great to watching the shifting dynamic between he and Adonis as they clash over certain views.

It’s a notch below its predecessor and it doesn’t cover much new ground but Creed II should win over most paying customers.