Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Starring: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Review Author: Tony
As an avid boxing fan it’s no great surprise there’s a special place in my heart for the Rocky franchise. For a series that went from Oscar-winning writing to pure shlock, I’ve loved every entry in the series (Apart from Rocky V which has been scratched from the history books). After years of the Rocky franchise at the butt of jokes and parodies, Stallone decided to bring the emotional core and a more grounded story to this much-loved character in the film Rocky Balboa. It was a swan song for the pugilist and his final onscreen fight and many of us thought this was the last time we’d see the titan jawed fighter. That was until Creed came out of the woodwork.
Creed was nothing short of a shock for Rocky fans, not only were we introduced to a character that would bring continuity to the story but that would also be mentored by an all-new repurposed Rocky. Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of series antagonist turned protagonist Apollo Creed was the perfect character to bring into the modern era of boxing and putting Rocky in his corner was a natural transition for the series. Not only was Creed an opportunity to bring new blood to the series but it was a fantastic film in its own right possibly only surpassed by the original Rocky. This was largely due to the man in the director’s chair, Ryan Coogler who is 3 for 3 in my books.
After winning the Heavyweight championship, Adonis Creed’s celebrations are cut short when a challenge for his crown comes from a shadow of the past. Ivan Drago was disgraced after his loss to Rocky in 1985 and forced to leave Russia with just his son and the clothes on their backs. Drago’s son proves to be a monstrous contender and with the tragic history of Ivan killing Adonis’ father in the ring, Adonis accepts the challenge against the wishes of his trainer and father figure, Rocky.
The return of Ivan Drago is a bit of a double ended sword, for fans he’s a much-loved villain but he’s also from probably the most ridiculous entry in the series, Rocky IV. His reemergence isn’t unjustified though as for better or for worse Rocky IV’s events have the biggest impact on the Creed series. Thankfully Drago is treated with care and his story became my favourite aspect of the film. While he and his son remain the antagonists, their story is given tragedy and emotional weight where you can’t help but sympathize for them.
Our three leading actors, Stallone, Jordan, and Thompson are all on top form as to be expected and each character is given their own emotional beats throughout. The Creed series has put its characters foremost and each has their own trials and tribulations with their own fights outside the ring. Dolph Lungren may not be given a lot of lines but his screen presence is undeniable and he’s just as much as an opposing figure as he was 30 years ago.
There are two rules to a Rocky (now Creed) movie which are that the fights scenes must be brutal and high drama and that there must be a heart raising montage scene (or two). These are the meat and potatoes of the series and thankfully Creed II brings a heavy portion of both. While there is nothing here quite as spectacular as the one shot fight scene from Creed, this movie instead implements some of the most brutal and hard-hitting fighting scenes of any boxing movie. These are heavyweights and every punch lands with vicious and thudding impact. The fight scenes are well shot and combinations, feints, and dodges look ripped out of real boxing matches. There’s also a montage scene in the desert that is sure to see gym memberships on the rise after the credits roll.
While never reaching the heights of its predecessor, Creed II retains most of the elements that made Creed I a hit. The fight scenes are incredible but the characters remain at the forefront at all times. It’s an emotional and rewarding film despite it being a direct continuation of perhaps the most ridiculous Rocky film in the series.
Rating: 4 / 5 Haymakers