It was impossible for me not to be hyped about Creed II. For one, it’s another Rocky film, a franchise that I love dearly. I also loved Creed, which I ranked my number one movie of 2015 and think it is one of the finest films of the decade. But most of my excitement for Creed II came from the fact that it featured Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago, the infamous villain from Rocky IV, a Cold War film that is as American as movies get. Rocky IV is one of my favorite Rocky films and seeing the return of the best villain in the franchise and his offspring is a film I couldn’t wait to see.
Turns out, the return of Drago is a film I could have waited for. Creed II is far from a bad movie, but doesn’t come close to the original. It has a lot of interesting pieces and story-lines, but all of them are shoved into this one movie, which makes the stories feel incomplete or underdeveloped, failing to replicate what was great about the first film.
Creed II begins with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) winning the championship belt. He then proposes to Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who is expecting a child, and everything seems to be looking up for him. Adonis and Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) are visited by Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu), who challenge him for his belt. Though Adonis knows the history between his father, Rocky, and Ivan, and much to the dismay of Rocky, he takes the match and gets beaten within inches of his life. Now, with a new fiancé, a new baby, a shaky relationship with Rocky, and Viktor tearing up every opponent who stands in his way and trash-talking Adonis into a rematch, Adonis must decide if fighting Viktor again is worth his life and the affect it will have on the loved ones around him.
The first Creed was like lightning in bottle. Maestro director Ryan Coogler had a clear vision of where he saw the Rocky franchise going. What resulted was a film that fit perfectly within the Rocky franchise, yet started its own franchise focusing on Adonis Creed. With spectacular filmmaking from Coogler, along with a star-is-born performance from Jordan and career-best work from Sylvester Stallone, Creed jumpstarted a new franchise. But what made Creed from another Rocky sequel to masterpiece was Adonis’ story. He was a lost soul. The orphaned son of one of the greatest boxers of all-time who was just trying to find his place in the world. With the help of Rocky and the determination and grit in his bout with the reigning champion, Adonis was able to forge his own name.
But what does that name mean? Who really is Adonis Creed? The whole message in Creed was the Adonis was not his father and that he wanted to be his own person. But Creed II never fully answers the question of who Adonis is. It does touch upon it, especially after Adonis gets his ass kicked and once he becomes a father, he begins to question who he is and what his purpose isThe problem is that it all happens too late in the movie and doesn’t get as in-depth as it should go. For the first part of the film, after Viktor challenges Adonis, Adonis feels like he needs to avenge his father and feels like he has unfinished business to handle, which contradicts the first film where Adonis wanted to get out of his father’s shadow. It’s an odd turn, and one that doesn’t land smoothly.
Much of the film’s problems come from trying to do too much. This is a common issue in a lot of sequels, where they try to top the original film by adding more subplots. Along with Adonis becoming a father, his relationship with Bianca, him trying to avenge his father and the figure out who he is as a person, his battles with Viktor, and relationship with Rocky, there are a number of things happening as well. One involves Rocky and his regret of not being in contact with his own son. Another involves his new daughter potentially being deaf. But the biggest subplot is Viktor and Ivan’s story, one that is truly compelling, yet wildly undeveloped. Ivan is still bitter from losing to Rocky, having lost everything in Russia after the loss, including his wife. He has trained and developed Viktor to be a hard-hitting monster, a child who can’t think for himself and only knows fighting. Ivan is using his son for his own satisfaction; he wants revenge and he wants stardom again. Both Lundgren and Munteanu are great in this movie and I would have honestly enjoyed a Drago movie diving more into this relationship more than I did this movie.
Jordan, Stallone, and Thompson are all good, yet again, and we even get a powerful performance from Phylicia Rashad as Adonis’ mother. The fights aren’t nearly exciting as the first film, but still more realistic and exciting than most boxing movies. But this is a film that really should have defined Adonis for who he is as a character. We should have waited for the third film to get the return of Drago. That way, this film could have focused specifically on Adonis becoming his own person and the third film could have brought in the Drago’s and could have been a two-hander where we focus on the personal, mental, and physical strain and Creed vs Drago Part II. Instead, Creed II ends up being one of the more disappointing films of 2018.
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