Creed II Movie Review
With a left jab and a nasty uppercut, Creed II delivers another satisfying bout—even if there isn’t much new to see. What we do get: a compelling sequel to Rocky IV, in which Adonis Creed seeks revenge for his father’s death by battling the bigger and badder Victor Drago, son of Ivan Drago.
With Ryan Coogler having moved onto other things—you may have heard of Black Panther—Steven Caple Jr. takes over directing duties. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvestor Stallone are back, as is Dolph Lundgren, whose Ivan Drago has become a bitter, awful person since his humiliating defeat to Rocky 30 years earlier, his only hope of reprieve and renewed respect among his ex-Soviet pals (and, oddly, his creepy looking ex-wife) a new Heavyweight title for his robotic, meat-packed son.
Like just about every other boxing movie in the history of boxing movies, Creed II follows the tried-and-trued boxing formula: our hero hits rock bottom and has to rebuild himself—with pumped-up training montage, of course—in order to defeat an opponent who is bigger and better in just about every way. There is nothing particularly original here, and the movie’s desire to harken back once again to something in the past rather than start afresh after Creed seemingly reset the stage seems like taking the path of least resistance rather than trying to develop something fresh.
But, as a promoter says in the movie, who doesn’t want to see a Creed vs. Drago rematch?
Co-written by Sylvestor Stallone, Creed II excels in the non-fight stretches, brooding over various human problems we all encounter even if the human problems here are generally First World Problems. Rocky is afraid to put another Creed in the ring with an Evil Russian, Creed’s seemingly resolved daddy issues resurface, and there are a few new things for the titular star to stress about to fill the film’s two-hour runtime. While some of the angsty stuff feels a bit, well, angsty, Stallone is clearly a natural at—and has plenty of experience—getting into the minds of downtrodden boxers.
Where Creed II really could have set itself apart would have been to explore further the life of the Dragos. Ivan clearly had a crappy life after losing to Rocky, but it would have been fascinating to see a bit more of it rather than just have it told to us. And the father-son dynamic is interesting, or at least could have been; you can tell Stallone and co-writer Juel Taylor try to avoid shallow post-Soviet stereotypes, but Victor Drago has almost no speaking parts throughout and yet it’s hinted at that there is more beneath the hood than just pure rage (although perhaps not that much more).
In fact, I’d sign up to watch a Drago movie that steps back a few years and follows these two around.
Creed II’s fight sequences are solid. The climax is a beautiful poem of punches, blood, sweat and tears, a well-staged sequence that arguably lands more satisfying blows than the one from its predecessor. It ends in rather peculiar fashion, a minor negative that doesn’t really diminish the fight sequence but seems out of character for the person in question. Would he really do what he does, based on everything we know about him?
Creed II is a sequel and struggles to establish itself beyond its critically revered predecessor, but the Rocky movies have always operated best as one ever-growing story, one that is able to recycle plot points and character developments in a believable way and tap into an undercurrent of emotion, no matter how melodramatic that undercurrent may be. Creed II is no different, and it’s another boxing movie that you’ll probably watch over and over again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.