Tom Jolliffe on why Creed II looks like it could match, or even surpass the previous film…
The new Creed II trailer dropped just a matter of days ago. The first trailer looked good. The second looks great. We’re not seeing anything ground breaking here, but there are a number of things the trailer suggests, will hold the film in good stead.
The first Creed was a bolt from the blue really. It had been on the horizon of course, but no one really expected it to turn out as well as it did, nor gather attention from the Academy Awards (Sylvester Stallone receiving a nomination as Best Supporting Actor). It may have retreaded what we’d seen way back when Sylvester Stallone first brought Rocky to the screen, but it felt like a fresh, modern and timely take. It kickstarted director Ryan Coogler’s ascension to the cream of the directing crop. It also gave Michael B. Jordan a huge career boost too.
Sequels are great as far as becoming potential money spinners, but artistically they’re something of a poisoned chalice. You can recapture what you did before, but the danger is you are embellishing here and there on a photocopy. In the case of Creed you also have to contend with the fact that it’s a reboot. It exists on prior establishment of Rocky, which the Creed legacy came from. That of course means you have ready made fans who will open themselves to the ‘spinoff.’ It also means you are following a six film franchise which had every strength and weakness a franchise could have. That may well serve as a useful barometer.
When Creed II was first announced I worried that the sequel may fit into two categories (if using the Rocky saga as a guide). Would it be a Rocky II? Which is to say, essentially more of the same with a slight elevation of stakes. On the surface there does seem to be that. It’s got all the hallmarks. A struggling couple, a new baby, unfinished business in the ring. Rocky II is a good film, it’s almost a little underrated. There’s great work from the cast. It just didn’t feel as special as the first. It didn’t have the surprise element. Some of the drama felt recycled.
Creed II could also have fallen into the III/IV category. Which is where drama, particularly in IV, is substituted for style and spectacle. Rocky IV is great. It’s the most iconic of the sequels, for its finer elements, as well as its cheesier elements. I don’t feel like Creed II might fall into the category of a V or a Balboa. The former is a category no one would want, whilst Rocky Balboa was more revisionist. It’s for 10-15 years from now, if we want to see an ageing Creed coming to terms with his mortality.
The sequel to Coogler’s excellent drama (the boxing is secondary) needs to find a middle ground. By bringing back the Drago family, you of course naturally associate yourself with the fourth Rocky. There’s no way Steven Caple Jr would make a 75 minute, extended music video with fight scenes. As majestic as that ends up as a screen spectacle, it’s a product of the 80’s. However, you need more spectacle. You need to build to an insurmountable task that stands between Creed and his goal. The final opponent in Creed wasn’t particularly important. It could be anyone. It was all about Adonis accepting his lineage. The sequel obviously needs the requisite drama, but it also needs a more personal antagonist. In bringing back Ivan Drago, replete with offspring, they’ve taken a gamble where the film may not be taken seriously. The beauty of the two trailers so far though, is that those dangers have been washed aside.
From eye-catching and elaborate training sequences, to a final bout that promises passion and drama, Creed II looks like it could satisfyingly continue a film that has almost unexpectedly launched into a new franchise. Visually it looks great too. It’s a stylistic extension of Coogler’s film, with plenty of Caple Jr’s own stamp on it too. The film would appear to have a good mixture of the intimate drama, and the Rocky staple spectacle. If it all connects together effectively over two hours, then we’re all onto a winner.
Caple Jr has also promised that the Dragos will be more than simply imposing obstacles. There will be some humanising of a character (and his son) who was once near robotic. It’s not only a good opportunity for the newcomer Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago, but it’s a great platform for Dolph Lundgren to come full circle, and show a side that big screen audiences haven’t seen a great deal of. To many he’s a guy who’s done 4-5 films perhaps. The reality is, he’s got a CV of over 70 films. The majority of which have been straight to video actioners, but among those he’s played some interesting characters and tried to push himself as an actor. Only die-hards will have seen these and he’d often be the bright spot in an otherwise pongtastic turd pie, but regardless, he’s come along way since 1985, and where Gunner Jensen (The Expendables) offered him a small spotlight, he should get more significant screen time (even in terms of the impact from the scenes he does have) here. Maybe he’ll surprise people.
Will Creed II live up to the previous film? Or even surpass it? Let us know what you think in the comments below…