If you would like to read our earlier review of Creed II, click here.
Synopsis: Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history. (Warner Bros.)
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Tessa Thompson
Writers: Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 130mins
2015’s Creed helped put the Rocky series back into prominence while also putting Ryan Coogler and arguably Michael B. Jordan on the map. Jordan was back for this sequel to Creed but Coogler was not (as the director). His absence was definitely felt here as this film could never manage to pack the same punch as the original. It wasn’t nearly as inventive as the original, relying on a predictable story with plenty of half-baked subplots and melodrama. Of course the big plot point here saw Adonis Creed (Jordan) and Rocky Balboa (Stallone) were confronted with their past and future when faced with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) after Viktor challenged Adonis for his heavyweight championship belt.
The history between Creed, Balboa, and the Dragos should be clear to just about any fan of the Rocky series. Both were force to relive the death of Apollo Creed. Adonis believed that defeating Viktor would sort of avenge his father’s death and Rocky, fearful for Adonis, did not want history to repeat itself. Now heavyweight champion, Adonis was at the top of the boxing world but Viktor Drago would knock him back down to Earth and teach him humility. While Adonis had to pull himself out of his funk, life happened around him which would help to change his perspective. Balboa was also reminded about his own family. Meanwhile, the Dragos lived miserable lives in exile after Ivan’s loss to Rocky. Though there was more going on here, it didn’t mean all that much. Ultimately, Viktor winning the belt would redeem themselves.
Due to the story’s predictable and melodramatic nature, Creed, Balboa, and Bianca (Thompson) were all still compelling to watch. The story tried to do far too much with these characters that it was difficult to ever get invested in anything. They only distracted from the most compelling subplot which was the rivalry between Adonis and Viktor which the film could still have handled better than it did here. The trajectories of these characters were never in doubt so everything happening in between was inconsequential at best. One of the best parts of the original was the actual boxing sequences but for whatever reason, that magic disappeared this time around. They just lacked the original’s cinematic quality and were not nearly as exciting to watch due to misguided cinematography that couldn’t quite capture the action in a captivating way.
The best part of the film was the performances of Jordan, Stallone, and Thompson as Creed, Balboa, and Bianca respectively despite the weaker material. Jordan was great here, showing range and was compelling to watch during his unoriginal arc over the course of the film. The same was the case for Stallone who brought plenty of charm to Balboa. The chemistry between Jordan and Stallone was still on point here which at least made things interesting to watch. Thompson was mostly relegated to the background in favor of Jordan and Stallone but shined whenever she was on screen.
Overall, this was a decent sequel that could never quite pack the same punch as the original, offering a weaker story full of half-baked subplots and plenty of melodrama that was mostly inconsequential at best. The boxing wasn’t nearly as impactful, losing the cinematic quality of the original. The next generation Creed vs. Drago matchup still delivered but the rest of the film could never quite match up. Jordan, Stallone, and Thompson at least kept things interesting.