- “Creed II” is a worthy companion to the 2015 original movie thanks to its focus on fathers and sons.
- Newcomer Steven Caple Jr. takes over as director and does an impressive job continuing the franchise that Ryan Coogler started with the first movie.
When director Ryan Coogler gave us “Creed” in 2015, it was a perfect continuation to the “Rocky” franchise and most of us couldn’t wait for him to continue the story of Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) – as he rises up the boxing ranks with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) by his side to try and be as great as his father, Apollo Creed.
But Coogler threw a major curveball when he decided to make “Black Panther,” leaving a question mark for a “Creed” sequel.
Fast forward three years and here we are with “Creed II” (opening in theatres November 21), and a new director at the helm, Steven Caple Jr. (“The Land”). And I’m happy to say that Caple pulled it off.
Essentially hand-picked by Coogler to take on the sequel, Caple orchestrates a worthy sequel that still has those needed references to the “Rocky” franchise the fans crave, but makes a point to build up Adonis’ own story.
From a screenplay by Stallone and Joel Taylor, “Creed II” picks up six fights after Creed lost to “Pretty” Ricky Conlan in the first movie. Having won them all, he’s now up against the champion Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler (Andrew Ward) for the title. Creed takes the belt (and the keys back to his car that Wheeler took from the brief fight they had in the first movie) and closes the night by proposing to his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson). All seems to be going right for Creed.
But in the Ukraine, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has dreams of a hero’s return to Russia by shaping his son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), into an even more powerful boxer than he was. In exile since losing to Balboa in “Rocky IV,” the Dragos wake up every morning with a singular goal: beat Creed like Ivan did his father. This leads father and son to Philadelphia to challenge Creed and Balboa to a title fight. With footage from “Rocky IV” used in ESPN highlights, Creed can’t look away from footage of his father dying in the ring at the hands of Drago over 30 years ago. Of course, the two sons are going to fight.
The movie then turns to the deep-rooted drama that happens in all the “Rocky” movies: why fight? With the guilt of not calling off the Apollo Creed-Ivan Drago fight still hanging over him, Balboa doesn’t want any part of it. But of course, Adonis wants to avenge his father. This leads to an impasse between the two that causes some soul searching for both men.
“Creed II” gives us the intense training montages and incredible fights that are a trademark in the “Rocky” franchise, but what really stands out are the things that happen outside of the ropes. What starts out as a revenge tale slowly evolves into a story of fathers and sons and the building of new legacies. At its core is the work of Jordan, who again as Creed delivers a performance that shows why he’s a movie star. His charisma matched with his talent is a total package that any franchise dreams of. Then there’s the chemistry between Jordan and Thompson that adds another powerful layer. Stallone, who earned an Oscar nomination for playing Balboa in “Creed,” once more delivers in the role that has defined his career – especially in the movie’s powerful ending.
What Coogler did with “Creed” was special: taking a beloved franchise like “Rocky” and reshaping it for a new generation. But Caple took on an even riskier assignment by doing the sequel. Thankfully he succeeded, and he did it by focusing on the characters and not the legend of the intellectual property.