Creed II doesn’t quite build on the legacy of Creed by as the newest installment continues to stick with the typical Rocky structure.
It’s been three years since Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) stepped out of his father’s shadows and into the limelight. He’s still living in Philadelphia, where he trains with the great Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Creed’s relationship with rising music star Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson) is on the verge of being taken to the next level. There’s something inherently funny about Creed coming to Rocky for marriage advice. In any event, the first portions of the film split time between Philly and Ukraine.
It’s in the Ukraine where we’re introduced to Viktor Drago (Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Given that the film’s backstory is essentially Rocky IV (1985), there’s a lot of footage from the previous film. Chapters that we thought were closed have been re-opened. With his loss to Rocky, Ivan lost everything, including his wife, Ludmila Drago (Brigette Nielsen). With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Viktor challenges Creed to a match.
Rocky wants nothing to do with it so Creed is on his own. Rocky saw what Ivan Drago did some 30 years earlier. The Las Vegas bout left Adonis Creed without a father. Rocky doesn’t want to see it happen again. This has drastic consequences in the long run but ultimately, those pay off because this is a Rocky film and we’re rooting for Creed to win. That’s the thing though. This film plays it so safe that even when things are bad, we know they’ll turn out well. This is the trouble of sports films. They stick so close to the formulaic structure that we liken can almost liken them to getting a participant trophy.
When actors sign contracts for multiple films, whatever stakes are in the film seemingly disappear. It’s because of this that I’m lukewarm on the film. I neither loved nor hated it but I’m somewhere in the middle.
With the theme of family playing throughout, Creed II will tug at our emotions. Even though Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) never wanted Adonis to become a boxer, she still supports his choices. I’d honestly say more but this is one area that I won’t spoil for viewers going into the film. It also proves to show just how much of the backstory plays into the film’s plot.
In 2015, the Rocky franchise took a different turn with Creed. We met the son of Apollo Creed. Now comes Creed II and we’re introduced to Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago. With younger sons of both Creed and now Drago, one can only start to wonder whose son will turn up next. Is it too far-fetched to think that James “Clubber” Lang’s son will show up to challenge Creed for the title?
“It’s your time,” Rocky tells Adonis Creed late in the film following a win. But is it? Is it really his time? This is hard to tell because Stallone’s signature is all over this film. This film is as much Rocky’s as it is Creed’s. It won’t ever be Creed’s time until the day comes when Stallone decides to walk away from the franchise. Until that day comes, Rocky and Creed will be forever tied together.
The biggest problem with Creed II is that the 8th installment of the Rocky franchise doesn’t take risks but instead plays it safe.
DIRECTOR: Steven Caple, Jr.
SCREENWRITER: Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone
CAST: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu, Andre Ward, with Phylicia Rashad and Dolph Lundgren