For those keeping score, Creed II is the 8th(!) movie in the Rocky franchise. The franchise itself has been a bit uneven, yet it can’t be denied that it is the most beloved and successful sports movie franchise of all time. I’m a huge sucker for sports dramas (the original Rocky and Rudy are among my favorite films of all time) so I should be a prime candidate for this new installment. And while there were some good moments, it doesn’t rise to the level of its predecessor or even its sister story, Rocky IV.
Creed II borrows from several Rocky films, most notably the fourth one. However it also borrows heavily from Rocky II and Rocky III. Nostalgia is the name of the game in Hollywood these days, and this film pays it out in spades. The story takes place soon after the first, with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) continuing to follow in the footsteps of his real father and his surrogate one, Apollo and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), as a world class heavyweight boxer. Eventually he accepts a challenge issued by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) who is the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Creed’s father in an exhibition match 33 years earlier.
Both Viktor and Adonis have daddy and identity issues, which serve as the main themes of the film. The disparity in the quality of the writing and directing between the original Creed and this movie made it difficult to get on board with the characters in this one. The first one was subtle and deliberate in its pacing and character work, whereas this one feels a bit more in your face and scattered.
The performances are fine. They feel more like a regular Rocky sequel than the first Creed did in that they were relying on the brilliant groundwork laid by their predecessors. However, there is a scene between Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren that is really well done, and probably the highlight of the film for me.
Honestly, it felt like a Marvel movie in certain ways. Most of my readers know that I am very critical of the way that Marvel deploys ‘bathos,’ which is basically adding levity to a serious, climactic scene. While bathos can be effective, it often ends up puncturing the sincerity of the emotions in a scene to the point that the scene loses its luster. This technique is so often employed in Creed II that it deflated the emotional impact of almost every serious scene in the film to its detriment.
Ludwig Göransson is back to score this sequel and once again proves he is among the finest composers working today. His score is a blend of bringing back themes from his work on the previous film and even includes some great themes from the original Rocky films. His ability to utilize the original themes of Bill Condon and yet still make them his own AND sound modern is amazing.
Creed II is a good popcorn flick that most people will really enjoy. It’s not brilliant, but sometimes that’s just fine.