Rob Reviews "Creed II"
The character of Rocky Balboa has been around almost as long as I have. Sylvester Stallone put the original film out in 1976, and it even won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing amongst the nine total nominations it carried. As the sequels came and went, they went on a roller coaster of quality and performance, but the one that seemed to stick out with most audiences outside of the original was “Rocky IV,” as the title character faced a Russian nightmare in Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren. I was in the sixth grade when it hit theaters at the height of my generation’s experience with the Cold War, and the theater was electric with pro-USA chants and patriotism as Rocky avenged the death of his best friend in Apollo Creed and traveled to the monster’s home country to stand up for his culture and family.
Three years ago, the franchise was given new life as Michael B. Jordan teamed up with Ryan Coogler to tell the story of Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo as he starts his journey into the sport that seemed to be his destiny, garnering an Academy Award nomination of its own for Stallone and was acclaimed by a number of critics. When a sequel was announced without Coogler and with limited experienced director Steven Caple, Jr. and mirroring the “Rocky IV” story as Adonis taking on the son of Drago in Viktor (Florian Muntenau), I was skeptical to say the least. It seemed like a cash grab to try to tell the same story to a new generation (with Stallone even directing and writing at one point, with the latter actually happening).
In this story, Creed has become the World Champion after avenging a sparring loss that also took his vintage Mustang. With Viktor and Ivan waiting in the shadows of Russia, promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) does what promoters do and calls out Creed without his knowledge of Drago even existing. As he prepares to marry his love in Bianca (Tessa Thompson) followed by the expectation of his first child, Adonis must decide if fighting this behemoth of a man is worth his time, his energies, and what could even be his life.
While there are a few similarities between this film and the story it is spun off of, it is by no means a carbon copy. “Creed II” is enough of a stand-alone story that even those who have not seen the first film will not need to see this one to be able to follow it outside of the dynamic between Bianca and Adonis. Phylicia Rashad returns as Adonis’ mother, who supports her son but wants to make sure that he does not suffer the same fate his father did, much less in the same manner.
The other thing here is that this story is about so much more than just Adonis fighting Drago. There are a number of layers here that are told masterfully from the relationship between generations to the journey of a young man into manhood and even knowing when to fight and when to walk away both literally and figuratively. Given the mine field that this franchise overall has been over the last thirty-one years, lessons seem to have been learned as it pertains to “Creed II,” which works on each and every level.
Outside of one small plot point that does not seem to get resolved, this film is nonstop action and drama that does not slow down the moment the opening MGM logo hits the screen until the lights come up. In a season where everything and everyone wants to be noticed by those that have voting ballots, “Creed II” is not only a more than worthy follow-up to its amazing predecessor but a film that stands up to even the best of the “Rocky” films themselves.