Creed II (2018)
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris, Milo Ventimiglia, Andre Ward and Brigitte Nielsen.
The Pitch: “The Rocky/Creed saga continues!”
The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…
After winning the Heavyweight Championship, Adonis Creed under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa is on top of the world. He’s ready to marry Bianca and start a family, his step-mother has accepted that he’s a fighter and Rocky is doing better with his cancer battle. The bad thing about being on top of the world is there is always someone who wants to take your spot.
Victor Drago, son of Ivan Drago is a monster of a man. He’s been winning fights by devastating knockouts and has his sights on Creed’s title. A Drago/Creed match-up would be a boxing fan’s and promoter’s dream. Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed in an exhibition boxing match. Rocky traveled to Russia to fight and beat Ivan Drago in a follow-up match. After that fight Rocky was never quite the same and Drago disappeared from the boxing scene. A fight between Apollo’s son (who is trained by Rocky) against Victor Drago, (trained by his father, the man who killed Apollo) is a bout that sells itself.
The idea that Drago didn’t just lose the fight to Rocky Balboa, he lost everything – his standing in his country, the privilege being the best fighter brought him, the honor and prestige granted a superior athlete and most importantly his wife. Drago has lived with this hurt and humiliation for over 30 years. It has hardened him and made him bitter. Drago has, as Rocky says, “raised (his son) in hate.” Ivan and Victor travel to the US to issue a personal challenge to Adonis who instantly wants to take the fight. Rocky doesn’t want it and refuses to train Adonis. To give away more would be wrong.
Any time a sequel follows a successful, wildly popular movie, expectations are high. Creed II lives up to them. Of course the actors do a great job – the movie is again perfectly cast with all the main players returning to reprise their characters. New additions, Russell Hornsby as promoter Buddy Marcell and Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu as Victor Drago are excellent in their roles and add to the Rocky/Creed universe.
The story rises well above the reprise of a Creed/Drago replay. Creed II has (as it should) call backs to the earlier Rocky movies but they feel natural. Hats off to screenwriters Stallone and Taylor for avoiding clichés, providing unexpected turns and excellent dialogue. Director, Steven Caple Jr., had big shoes to fill and does so. Sly Stallone, nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Creed, should get a nomination for Creed II and this time he should win. Also, Dolph Lundgren should be given kudos — his scene with Sly early on was my favorite of the movie.
The movie works so well because it doesn’t just focus on the fight drama. Each of the major characters has a life beyond just the scenes that they appear in. Milo Ventimiglia and Brigitte Nielsen appearances were icing on the cake.
Creed II will of course appeal to fans of the Rocky/Creed series, and to all who love great movies. Bring on Creed III.