Adonis Creed goes up against the son of Ivan Drago,
who famously killed his father Apollo Creed in the ring.
Creed II (2018)
Directed by Steven Caple Jr.
Written by Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Florian Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren, Phylicia Rashad,
Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris
Sequel to 2015's Creed
I got to hand it to Sylvester Stallone. Not only has he created one of cinema’s most iconic franchises in Rocky, which also spawned more good sequels than bad, but he also helped launch a hugely successful, so far, spinoff in Creed. In a sequel that should have flopped due to some behind the scenes issues and an almost identical plot to a previous film, Creed II ends up excelling with the usual great drama and boxing matches. Kudos to you Mr. Stallone. I continue to look forward to where this franchise takes us next.
While I could go on about Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in this film, they both have already showed how excellent they are in this franchise. And both continue to not disappoint. The main people I want to highlight are Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu as Ivan and Viktor Drago, respectively. Both are absolutely phenomenal in this movie. Lundgren is given a lot more to work with than his initial appearance in Rocky IV. And he takes complete advantage of it. You see what that fateful match did to him personally and professionally. Munteanu also does great with very little. Especially if you consider this is his first major movie. Through him, you see just how he was, and continues to be, affected by his dad’s loss. The last thing I would really like to mention is the handling of Rocky himself. Shortly before this film was released, Stallone announced he was officially retiring the character. Creed II does a phenomenal job of giving this beloved, iconic character a proper send off.
Instead of falling flat on its face, Creed II delivers everything this series has become known for. Gripping drama and rousing boxing help create another excellent entry in this long running franchise. Considering this is the last time we’ll be seeing Stallone portray the character that made him famous, it’s also bittersweet, which is honestly a good word for this entire franchise. Hopefully, the inevitable Creed III continues this franchise’s excellent track record.
There were so many opportunities for Creed II to go off the rails and pull the Rocky franchise back down to the depths with Rocky V, but the film consistently takes the high road and delivers an emotional revenge story from two different viewpoints. One one hand, you have Adonis Creed fighting the son of the man who killed his father. On the other, you have Viktor Drago challenging the fighter who represents everything his family lost when Rocky defeated Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. With so many ways to read the fight, this film brings something that hasn't been seen in the franchise before. A sympathetic villain.
Starting with Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) becoming the Heavyweight Champ, Creed II then sees Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) come to Philly to challenge Creed's title. Viktor is trained by his father Ivan, played phenomenally by a weary Dolph Lundgren who shows us a new side of the famous 80's villain and makes him sympathetic and somewhat likable. The film feels very much like a rehash of Rocky III, but the attachment to the characters balances out the unoriginal concept. Ultimately, I enjoyed it quite it a bit.
The best scenes in the film (apart from the final fight) are the minor confrontations between Rocky and Drago. Two relics in a world that's left them behind. You see that losing to Rocky destroyed Drago's life and his son is the only way he can restore the family name in Russia. At the same time, you get the sense that he feels remorse for what he did to Apollo, and that never comes clearer than in the third act. For a film that easily could've been a joke, the fact that it's one of the most emotionally resonant films in the franchise shows that there are still stories to be told here.