Creed II takes the story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in the most natural direction this series could go for a sequel, and that’s confronting the ghosts of the past. Done in a very Shakespearean manner, Creed II focuses heavily on fathers and sons, the sins of the fathers and the trickle-down effect that it’s had on their offspring, with it all coming to a head inside the squared circle in true Rocky franchise fashion.
With Adonis going the distance with the champ in the first movie, but coming up short in the decision, it made sense to change things up this time around instead of following the same path as Rocky II. So, Creed II has Adonis win the title right out of the gate, in somewhat anti-climactic fashion. While it’s somewhat abrupt, it makes sense for the story, as Creed’s being worthy of the title is called into question with him taking on the champ, Danny Wheeler, well past his prime. Adding fuel to the fire, fight promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) brings a fight to the table that not only catches headlines, but the ire of Adonis.
That fight is with Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) – the man who killed Adonis’s father, Apollo, in the ring back in Rocky IV. Marcelle knows this fight is money and knows that it will also be a bout that has the potential to gain the same lasting fame as the Rumble in the Jungle. While this logic is used to try and sway Adonis into taking the fight, it’s clear that the push wasn’t needed, as Adonis’s temperament and mindset that continuously got him in trouble during the first film rears its ugly head once again.
Creed II delivers on almost every level, though it doesn’t pack the same dramatic punch as the first film. This movie feels more like it’s going through the Rocky playbook of hitting the right emotional notes between the predictable, yet still engaging fights…and let’s not forget the obligatory training montage! That’s not a bad thing, however, as director Steven Caple Jr. handles the story properly, allowing the audience to look past what they know will inevitably happen and just enjoy the various battles it takes for the characters to get there.
It also helps to have such a great antagonist helping to carry the story along in Ivan and Viktor Drago. Writers Juel Taylor and Stallone both make sure to not just make these characters one-note villains. While there’s a lot of focus on what Ivan did to Apollo to get things going, that’s just one part in the father/son thematic tone the film follows. We also get to see what’s become of Ivan after his loss to Rocky all those decades ago, and what that’s done to his relationship with his son. While the focus is still mainly on Adonis, getting this insight into Ivan and Viktor adds layers to the story that a lesser film would’ve just gone without and been worse off for it.
With Rocky and Ivan both taking the backseat to Adonis and Viktor, it’s important that Viktor can stand out on his own, and he definitely does that. Munteanu is a pro-boxer and a beast of a man, so just from a purely visual standpoint he’s an impressive specimen that looks like he could break Adonis in a match. That’s vital to a film like this, as we need to believe that this is a guy that Adonis should fear, and Munteanu delivers there. He doesn’t say too much, but in the few major speaking scenes he does have, Munteanu is really impressive for someone who was learning the acting ropes on set. They really lucked out finding this guy, as he checks off all the boxes required to be a worthy foe to Adonis in the eyes of those watching.
The story also focuses on Adonis’s relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and the triumphs and challenges that it brings to his life, as well as delving a bit more into his relationship with his adoptive mother, Marry Anne (Phylicia Rashad.) On top of all that, we get a bit more insight into where Rocky currently is personally, and his relationship with his own son. There’s just loads of ground to cover here, and the juggling act done with the pacing and handling of it all is quite impressive.
Creed II covers a lot of the ground that fans wanted covered with the Adonis character in all the right ways. While this movie has a much more Hollywood feel to it in terms of plot points, the strong acting, proper writing and direction all help keep it in line so that it keeps the Creed franchise alive and going strong, while also opening up the door to a third film to take an entirely new direction and possibly allow the series to step out of the shadow of the Rocky saga and start building its own legacy.
This movie looks fantastic in 4K. It’s just a really beautifully shot film, and the fight scenes – which many would argue are the most important visually – look superb. The crisp visuals just make the fighters jump out, and everything looks as clean as one could hope for with a film like this. The audio is also top tier, with the soundtrack blasting out at all the right moments, helping to hit the audience with the same adrenaline boost that the characters are often feeling during those same times. Major kudos to the transfer team on both sides, as this is definitely a movie to watch in 4K if the option is there.
For those who haven’t upgraded yet, fear not, as the Blu-ray looks as sharp is one could expect from the format, which is to say that the film is beautiful on Blu-ray as well.
Fathers and Sons – This feature is just over 7-minutes in length and sees Stallone, Lundgren, Caple Jr. and other cast and crew talking about the themes of the film, where the idea came from, and how it felt like the natural place to take the Creed storyline next.
Casting Viktor Drago – This featurette is just under 6-minutes long and focuses on casting Munteanu for the part of Viktor, what he brought to the table, what his thoughts were on getting the role, and things like that. Definitely one of the better bits of insight you’ll find on the extras.
The Women of Creed II – This featurette is also just under 6-minutes in length and sees Rashad and Thompson talking about their roles, how the women in the lives of these men are just as vital to their success as anything, both in the film and when it comes to real life boxers.
Rocky’s Legacy – This is a 15-minute feature that kind of sums up the entirety of the Rocky franchise so far, with cast and crew talking about the series, as well as lots of pivotal scenes being shown.
Deleted Scenes — Also about 10-minutes worth of deleted scenes for those interested.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Creed II. Directed by: Steven Caple. Jr. Written by: Juel Taylor, Sylvester Stallone. Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby. Running time: 130 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Mar. 5, 2019.
Tags: Creed, Creed II, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Michael B. Jordan, Phylicia Rashad, Rocky, Steven Caple. Jr., Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson