Creed II, 2018.
Directed by Steven Caple Jr.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Russell Hornsby, Dolph Lundgren, Wood Harris, Robbie Johns, Andre Ward, Brigitte Nielsen, and Milo Ventimiglia.
Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, light heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago.
With Michael B. Jordan reprising the role of Adonis ‘Donny’ Creed in Creed II, the Rocky spin-off brought the new film series back to one of the most seminal moments from the franchise as Ivan Drago returned with his son Viktor in tow, challenging Donny to a boxing match that echoed the past. Boasting some great performances from its principal cast, Creed II plays double duty while honouring the legacy of the Rocky franchise, Rocky IV in particular, and exploring the complicated emotions Adonis has in this fight. Steven Caple Jr. directs a fine follow-up to Ryan Coogler’s original, even if some of the film’s emotional moments don’t quite land as well as they could. Nevertheless, any fan of the Rocky and Creed films will be pleased to take home the blu-ray and dive into some insightful special features.
Upon viewing the film again, my opinion doesn’t really differ from my original review of Creed II at its theatrical release. Jordan again turns in an endearing performance as Creed that highlights his insecurities and vulnerabilities very well. Whether its his stubbornness to see the fight with Drago through or the fear he faces at not being good enough as a boxer and father, Jordan sells the emotions very well. Tessa Thompson is given a bit more to do as Bianca in the sequel and shares several good scenes with Jordan that explores the changing dynamics between Adonis and Bianca in their new roles as an engaged couple and parents-to-be. Sylvester Stallone, of course, does a great job as Rocky that delves into some of the personal guilt for his failures, namely for the role he played in Apollo Creed’s death and the, ahem, rocky relationship he has with his own son. Each of these three shows there is a lot to be mined from these characters going forward.
The only downside on the character front is that of the Dragos. While Dolph Lundgren actually gives more depth to Ivan Drago’s emotions and motivations, Ivan is still played a little too cliche in his quest to reclaim the Drago glory with a dash of vengeance thrown in. He’s fairly cold for most of the film, but is able to open Ivan up emotionally in the film’s latter half. Florian Munteanu, however, doesn’t quite deliver a memorable performance as Ivan’s son Viktor. He certainly has an imposing presence throughout the film, but doesn’t have any real agency of his own. Everything he does is because of what Ivan wants. There is one moment where Viktor lays into Ivan which Munteanu does well in, but its too little to make us really sympathize much with either Drago despite the harshness of their circumstances. There’s even some interesting parallels between Adonis and Viktor since they’re both forced to live up to the memory of their fathers, but the film never taps into that for further examination. Even with Lundgren making Ivan more of a rounded antagonist, the emotion behind both of them just isn’t fully there.
The same lack of emotion extends to some of the problems Adonis and Bianca face. While Jordan and Thompson share nice chemistry and convey their emotional turmoil well for the most part, there are moments where the film doesn’t quite land on that front. The film spends more time exploring the external problems Adonis and Bianca rather than the internal ones, like Bianca’s objection to Adonis fighting Viktor or the difficulty of having a baby. It doesn’t spend a whole lot of time examining how their relationship changes in either case and deals with Bianca’s feelings on the fight fairly quickly. Likewise, the rift between Adonis and Rocky (or even Rocky and his son) isn’t as fleshed out as it could be and gets fixed fairly easily. The conflict between the characters just doesn’t feel wholly earned because of how quickly the film moves through them.
Caple Jr. still shows how he can adapt to the Rocky/Creed style of storytelling while making it his own as well. His direction is clear and the film does move along at a nice pace with some great cinematography to boot. The fight scenes are well-filmed and easy to follow with clear and nicely lit imagery. The tone of the film feels very much in line with the rest of the franchise. Its themes on legacy and how it can haunt a person are strong, but again it would have been nice if Creed II explored the parallels between Adonis and Viktor and their own legacies a bit more.
Included on the blu-ray are the following features:
Fathers & Sons: The theme of the relationships between the fathers and sons are discussed by Caple, Jordan, Stallone and Lundgren. It goes into some depth about the legacies of Apollo and Ivan and how they’ve affected their children. The feature even includes insight from boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard as well as boxing father/son duo David Paul and David ‘Junebug’ Mijares on the complexities of a boxing father training their son in the sport.
Casting Viktor Drago: A look at how Florian Munteanu was chosen for the role of Viktor and the training he had to do. Already an amateur boxer, Munteanu’s training more focused on acting, mastering the fight choreography and placements while filming.
The Women of Creed II: Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad discuss their roles in the film and actually being able to work opposite each other this time around. They provide some insight into how they helped shape the character’s relationship and make their conversations sound authentic.
The Rocky Legacy: Dolph Lundgren hosts this 15 minute feature delves into the impact the Rocky franchise has had in film, sports and pop culture. From the iconic theme song to its themes of rooting for the underdog, various actors and sportsmen talk about how the films have affected them and why there’s seemingly no end to them. Stallone and Lundgren also get together to reflect on their iconic fight in Rocky IV and what it means to reunite for Creed II.
Deleted Scenes: There are only three deleted scenes available and its easy to see why two of them were cut. One is of Rocky speaking at a funeral for an old friend while the other is an extended scene of Donny and Bianca at dinner right before they learn about Drago’s challenge. Neither scene really adds anything to the film, but the final scene involves Donny and Viktor actually sharing a moment together. Coming after their fight at the end of the film, Adonis meets Viktor in the locker room and assures him that they and their legacies are more than just one fight. It’s a nice moment of pathos and understanding between the characters where so much is conveyed with so few words between Jordan and Munteanu. Even Ivan gets a very quick moment with both Donny and Rocky in this scene that offers a nice amount of closure for them all and acts as a great coda to the fight that makes it difficult to see why this was cut. Were it in the film, it may have added a long way to the emotional conflicts that are lacking in the actual cut.
While Creed II doesn’t quite land with all of its emotional beats, the cast still deliver good performances with Jordan and Stallone the standouts. The film is well-shot and the fights are entertaining and brutal with their realism. Fans of the franchise won’t be too disappointed with the steps this sequel makes in honouring the franchise’s long legacy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★