Creed II (2018) – Review

Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby

The Overview
Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, light heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
The first Creed took pretty much everybody by surprise. Managing to simultaneously impress the critics, and satisfy the die-hards, Creed was both a fitting tribute to the legendary boxing franchise and a fresh, reinvigorating experience.

Now back for round two, the stakes are higher, and the fights are even more personal as Adonis (Jordan) squares off against Vicktor Drago (Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Lundgren); the man of course who was responsible for the death of Adonis’ father, Apollo.

With the focus of the first film very much being about forging his own path and creating his own legacy, the second is more about revenge and justice. Like most of the films in the Rocky franchise, the beats are similar but despite this, the characters and the emotions are what drives it, and on the whole, Creed II feels like a worthy follow-up to the first film, as well as a satisfying conclusion to many of the earlier Rocky threads; mostly those in Rocky IV.

Whilst it doesn’t feel as fresh as the first film, it is another fine entry into the series, and arguably one of the most emotional ones yet. The continuation of the Creed/Drago story-line doesn’t disappoint, but the film is filled with surprises that really help to elevate it. Particularly when it is exploring the ideas of legacy, pride, and honour, it is perhaps even stronger than the first film. The dynamic between Stallone and Michael B. Jordan continues to be excellent, but in many ways the story between Lundgren and professional boxer Florian Munteanu is the one that is most compelling.

Where the first film gave us arguably Stallone’s finest performance in years, it is Lundgren this time who really impresses. No, really! There’s so much emotion in his story, as the fall-out from the events of Rocky IV become evident. The sense of honour and pride in particular is so strong, and it is really fascinating to watch this unfold in the father and son dynamic.

The rest of the cast continue to deliver fine performances, and this is arguably Michael B. Jordan’s finest work as well. The film asks a lot more of him than the first one did, particularly when it comes to showing emotion and he delivers without question. The screen chemistry he shares with co-star Tessa Thompson is electric once again, and their relationship feels real, honest and genuine. It’s also great to see Phylicia Rashad have a bit more screen-time this time around as well, and she is an absolute delight every time she is on the screen.

The fight scenes were one of the strongest elements of the first film, and whilst nothing quite tops Ryan Coogler’s long-take “one-shot”, there are some brutal point-of-view shots that are astounding. The choreography of these scenes is still fantastic, and the exceptional sound design ensures you not only hear every punch but feel it as well. The camera dances around the fighters ensuring you’re constantly in the throes of the action. They’re tense, triumphant, surprising, and consistently one of the strongest elements of the film.

Where the film perhaps fails is in its inability to avoid some of the boxing cliches. A film like this is inevitably going to be full of tropes, but there are some particularly choice moments it could do without. The boxing commentary for example feels even more on the nose this time, and perhaps that is a weakness of Stallone’s script (which is otherwise solid), but it would have been stronger had it adopted more of a “show don’t tell” approach. We as the audience are invested enough in these characters to know what to feel, we don’t need to be told!

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too. Whilst not quite as good as the first film, Creed II is another strong entry into the Rocky saga and if anything it cements the fact that the “Creed” name will be enough to carry the franchise going forward with Stallone now looking to bow out. With consistently great performances, fantastic fight scenes, and a surprising amount of emotion, Creed II is certainly a film that’s worth your time, and given the attention it pays to previous story arcs, it is guaranteed to delight the fans. The inevitable montage scene is perhaps also the best one since Rocky IV; seriously, believe the hype! 

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