Movie Review: “Creed II” – A Rematch Made in Heaven

Written by Jeremiah Greville December 04, 2018

Rocky V really sucked. It was a sequel so bad and so unnecessary that it effectively ended the franchise for sixteen years. It’s the only movie in the entire boxing series to end with a street fight instead of an actual boxing match. And at the time, this was considered the end of the saga. So, for anyone afraid that Creed II may not live up to its predecessor, just keep in mind how low this franchise has sunk before. Luckily, Creed II is a sequel most fans should be delighted with. There’s nothing to fear with new director Steven Caple Jr taking over from Ryan Coogler, and though Creed II often plays like a greatest hits mashup of moments past, great hits are what boxing movies are all about.

Creed II is the sequel to 2015’s Creed, and stars Michael B. Jordan once again as Adonis Creed. This time around, Adonis has to deal with the birth of his new child while facing his toughest opponent yet, Viktor Drago. Viktor, of course, is the son of Ivan Drago, the man who thirty years earlier killed Adonis’ father Apollo in the ring. Despite how melodramatic that may sound, Creed II is surprisingly thoughtful and restrained when it comes to dredging up the past. Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, and Dolph Lundgren also star in a screenplay by Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone. While Creed II is the eighth film in the Rocky franchise, you don’t need to see any of the others to understand what’s going on.

“It’s a whole other thing to be champion.”

If you have seen any of the previous Rocky films—or really, any boxing movie—a lot of what happens in Creed II won’t be a surprise. You’ll be able to guess the trajectory of the film from any of the trailers, or from the opening act. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a flaw. It’s not a flaw to adhere to a formula as long as the end result is still entertaining. Originality is great, but it’s not the same as—and is no substitute for—quality. Plenty of movies have nothing to offer outside of their formula, but that isn’t true here. Creed II packs plenty of emotional punch into its 130 minute run-time. Yes, you’ve seen it before. And yeah, you’ll probably like it again.

This brings us to one of the most fascinating aspects of the film. Hold on to your butts, ’cause this is gonna get nerdy: Creed II is like Rocky II, III, and IV combined. It features Adonis’ rise to the height of the sport (Rocky II), his hubris and first public downfall (Rocky III), and his father’s trademark showmanship with the Dragos (Rocky IV). But the Creed movies have never been about Rocky nostalgia. These moments aren’t ever tributes or direct references to the originals—they simply mirror them. What’s fascinating is that, in hitting all of these notes in the second sequel, the door is open wide for the story to go somewhere new in any third film that might come out.

“My son will break your boy.”

But in the here and now, Creed II is still wonderful. Michael B. Jordan continues to be one of the most charismatic actors of his generation, and it’s hard not to be in his corner throughout the film. Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone are both magnificent as his longtime partner and trainer, respectively, but there’s not much to say about their performances that hasn’t been echoed elsewhere. They’re great. Dolph Lundgren was surprising as Ivan Drago, bringing a lot more to the role that most probably expected. And while Florian Munteanu isn’t given much to do as his son, Viktor, he’s just as good when it’s his turn to show some emotion outside of the ring.

And it’s the Dragos, not the Creeds or Balboas, who really make the movie this time. Their motivation and father-son dynamic is only touched upon lightly, but enough to paint a picture that makes the ending all the more meaningful. That’s right—the ending is meaningful for both the heroes and the villains! My favourite moment of the film comes at the very end. I desperately want to spoil it here, but won’t. Suffice to say, with just a few minutes of screen time and some wise storytelling choices, Creed II won me over completely. It doesn’t break the mould, but makes damn good use of it. By feinting left when we least expect it, the film both dodges expectations and exceeds them.

“The belt isn’t enough.”

It’s not a knockout, but Creed II definitely goes the distance. It’s a great film and a worthy successor to both the original Creed, and the Rocky franchise. While it may be the last in the series for Sylvester Stallone, odds are good that we’ll someday see Adonis Creed in the ring again. Until then, Creed II serves up plenty of boxing goodness, as well as surprising pathos and charming family moments. You’ll care about these characters and why their fighting on both sides. Creed II is no undercard—it’s the real deal, and worth checking out in theatres while you can.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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