The bell sounds for a second round of boxing drama, as the inevitable sequel to the crowd-pleasing Creed steps between the ropes. It’s an entertaining watch, as are all of the Rocky movies in this (now) 8 movie franchise. I loved Creed, a five star gem of a story that really offered something new and exciting to the legacy. Creed II delivers a more straightforward boxing drama, with a great emphasis on family, however there’s something missing from the boxing side of the story.
Creed II follows on from the first film and now Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is ready to take on the champ for the title. In the aftermath, an unexpected opponent makes himself known; Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). The son of one of Rocky’s greatest adversaries Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), Viktor is a formidable foe who has no problem dredging up the past. Ivan killed Adonis’ father Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the ring and has returned to redress the balance after his loss to Rocky over 30 years ago.
Adonis immediately wants to take the fight, but as his relationship strengthens with Bianca (Tessa Thompson), he must make some tough choices – some which are made tougher to handle when Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) refuses to train him for what he sees as a no-win fight. With family ties straining and responsibility mounting, Adonis must face up to his greatest opponent yet, whilst honouring the legacy of a father taken away from him too soon.
The ingredients are all here to have made another knock-out movie. The story set-up is good, bringing all of the Rocky movies together in a tale that nods to the past whilst setting up the future. This is ultimately a story about fathers and sons, and in that respect Creed II is fantastic. The unresolved drama from the past with Apollo, along with his new future alongside Bianca gives Adonis plenty to deal with in this movie and Michael B. Jordan once again proves that he is the man for the job. Jordan is fantastic here and really strikes a chord with the viewer.
It’s always a joy to see Sylvester Stallone back on the big screen and the legend does exceptionally well once again as his greatest ever character, Rocky Balboa. His story has moved on having put his cancer into remission, with Rocky now looking to reconnect with his estranged son. This part of the storyline really doesn’t make much sense given how good a job Rocky Balboa did in reconnecting him with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia). Robert’s absence was felt in Creed, but this story does make strides to redress that balance, with Ventimiglia returning for a cameo.
Speaking of cameos, Brigitte Nielsen returns as Ludmilla, but this is where I start to have problems with the story. It’s great to see her back, but she has nothing to do here and that’s a massive waste of a set-up. The story of Drago looking for a win through his son is interesting, but the plot never really delves too deep which is a massive shame. Dolph Lundgren is a good actor but shy of a great tête-à-tête with Rocky in his restaurant, he isn’t afforded much opportunity to break free from the one-liners and grimaces which is a huge missed opportunity. His strained relationship with Vikor is outlined well, and Florian Munteanu does well as a son just looking for validation from his stern father. But again, there was much more mileage in this part of the story that could, and should, have been explored more. To not have a scene with Ivan speaking with his ex-wife Ludmilla is madness.
Creed director Ryan Coogler brought a very distinct style to his movie and it was a shame that he didn’t return to direct this one (although he still executive produces the film). Instead Steven Caple Jr. steps up to lead the film. I wasn’t a fan of his choice of shots when it came to the boxing – for me he came in close when wide angles were better and he doesn’t give any of these scenes the vibrancy and dynamic energy they needed. Even the key montage training sequence feels poor compared with the others. This is a personal preference on visual style, but for me Creed II lacks electricity in the action scenes and that was a hard punch for me to shake off.
The family aspect of the film works far better than the boxing side of things, but Creed II is still an entertaining watch. As a lifelong Rocky and Creed fan, I was expecting more and was disappointed in how glaring opportunities to add weight and depth of the characters went begging. There was too much untapped potential here to make this the easy win it should have been, and I’m disappointed for that because I think Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and the cast deserved a little better. Bring back Coogler for Creed III and expand on the well-laid groundwork to bring this champ back to his feet.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris, Milo Ventimiglia, Brigitte Nielsen Director: Steven Caple Jr. Writer: Cheo Hodari Coker, Sascha Penn, Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor Released By: Warner Bros Certificate: 12A Duration: 130 mins Release Date: 30th November 2018