Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” (2015) was a surprisingly well-executed and welcome addition to the “Rocky” franchise. Working as a reboot of sorts, it brings “Rocky” to a new generation. With “Creed II,” Steve Caple Jr. directs a fairly by-the-numbers sequel that works, but doesn’t have near the impact that “Creed” does.
The “Rocky” series, for the most part, is a character drama more than a boxing saga. Focusing on characters that aren’t perfect but that you want to root for anyway, “Creed” II continues the trend. It comes off as a hybrid of “Rocky II,” “III,” and “IV,” focusing on things like family, self-doubt, legacy and, of course, perseverance.
“Creed II” picks up with Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) riding high after his split decision loss to the heavy favorite Pretty Ricky, having beaten all the top contenders and now challenging Danny Wheeler for the title.
We also learn that Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has been training his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu) for years with the specific goal of revenge. When he lost to Rocky in the ’80s, Drago lost the support from the Russian sporting world, the country and his wife. With his son now an up-and-coming heavyweight, this seems like the perfect time to challenge Adonis and earn back the respect he lost.
If you think this sounds like your standard sequel setup, you’re right. Add in a proposal, a pregnancy and a champion who hits rock bottom and you have your “Creed” sequel.
That’s not to say “Creed II” is all bad. There is a lot to like here as well. The performances from Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson are superb. The fighting scenes are top-notch, and I’m not embarrassed to say there is more than one scene that tugged on my heartstrings.
“Creed II” is essential viewing for any fan of the “Rocky” franchise, but you have to know what you’re getting into. If you’re just there for the pick-me-up feeling you get from hearing the “Rocky” theme song kick in mid-fight, you won’t be disappointed. If you are there because you love the Rocky character and want to tag along for another ride, you’ll get that too. It just doesn’t quite live up to the top films of the franchise.
I don’t know if this is the end of the franchise or not, but if it continues, I’m still on board.
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