While Creed II follows a familiar formula, it adds enough new flavor to keep the franchise feeling fresh, and there are fight scenes too. It is just a shame Apollo is not here to see it.
The Rocky franchise is one of the best series in movie history. After winning best picture in 1977, Rocky spawned 5 sequels (though Rocky V is not officially recognized in our house), followed by 2015’s phenomenal Creed. There are few characters as well known and well loved as Rocky Balboa, and Adonis Creed still has a long ways to go, but as long as he’s got Rocky in his corner, he may have a long career ahead of him as well.
The main theme of the movie is expectations. Every character has them, struggles with them, overcomes them. Adonis has expectations inherited from his father’s legacy. Rocky has expectations of himself to be a good man and father. Ivan and Viktor Drago have mutual expectations of father and son. And while these expectations forge and shatter in the boxing ring, the story continues to be outside the ring.
Michael B. Jordan turns in a good performance, though slightly less powerful than his first turn. He has less charm and more angst this time around, and could have used more of the fun moments that gave his character likeability.
Tessa Thompson gets the same amount of screen time, but somehow feels less important than she did initially. Phylicia Rashad increases her importance as the wise mother. Her revelation at a family dinner is especially entertaining.
The drama, though, comes through Sylvester Stallone. He has played Rocky for more than 40 years, and I still want to see him triumph. He has complex relationships with Adonis Creed and Ivan Drago, as well as his son Robert (played once again by Milo Ventimiglia). And he is the secret ingredient to Creed’s success in the ring and on the screen.
The soundtrack is rousing, modernizing and mixing the familiar Rocky theme with hip-hop and R&B. And, the training montages, OH, the training montages! Nothing gets me more pumped than seeing Adonis Creed wail on a patch of dirt with a sledgehammer and then run through the desert. Still gives me goosebumps.
The only downside is that Apollo Creed does not make any appearance in this movie other than in images or clips. It would be nice to hear Carl Weathers’ voice guiding Adonis to his feet in the final fight.
Some might complain that the movie is a retread of Rocky III & IV, and fair enough. It does follow the formula established by those movies: A defeat at the midpoint, followed by a decisive final battle. But it is a formula that works. I will continue to buy tickets to Rocky/Creed movies as long as they ignore Rocky V, and keep making these gems.
4 cushions and a throw pillow!