Written by: Juel Taylor & Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad
We all have our own reasons for getting involved in fights on a variety of levels. Only when we can be fully honest with ourselves with our intentions is where the clarity of the battles comes through. This honesty does not come as easily as we would like to think as seen through the progression of the titular character in Creed 2.
Standing tall as the heavyweight champion of the world, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) has everything going well for him, including the knowledge of Bianca’s (Tessa Thompson) pregnancy. He then receives a challenge from an unlikely individual, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the man who killed Apollo.
The setup to this film has the idea we’ve all been anticipating. When the plot details came out, we knew it was inevitable. The death of Apollo Creed at the hands of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) marked one of the most harrowing and heartbreaking moments this series of films has ever delivered. The idea he died in the boxing ring from the brute force of Drago haunted the legacy of this character, even up to Adonis, who must now face off with this situation. The idea of having Drago’s son take on Adonis was always inevitable because the script truly writes itself and while this film has its structural flaws, it comes together to tell an impactful story.
Following his defeat to Conlan, Adonis has found the proper balance of his identity with also being a Creed. Even with his success, he finds himself feeling like an imposter with his place and accomplishments. This feeling plagues him throughout the film, as the pressure to take on this fight lingers in his mind, but the reason for why he wants to take it on comes off as disingenuous because he cannot adequately express the motivation. It feels more so like an obligation rather than something that would actually enrich his life. This causes a rift between him and Rocky, as they argue whether this fight will do anything for the young man. He has everything to lose and nothing discernible to gain.
The personal nature of this match runs through nearly every character because of the painful history between the Creeds, Dragos, and Rocky. Balboa obviously feels the guilt of not throwing in the towel, but also sees the potential pain ahead for Adonis. As the Italian Stallion mentions, Viktor was trained through hate and Ivan broke things in him that have never been fixed. An unsettling statement for sure, but it makes sense if you saw the fight between Drago and Rocky in Rocky IV. There’s plenty of trauma happening here, but this film shows it does not only lie with the people we root for.
Following Ivan Drago’s defeat to Balboa, he essentially became the shame of Russia and got tossed aside, even his wife abandoning him and the son. Getting his son back to the top becomes an obsessive passion for him, which shows in the intense training he puts Viktor through. Their emotional plight does not receive a plethora of time in the story rightfully, but it definitely gets established in a meaningful way.
The physique of both Michael B. Jordan and Florian Munteanu reached an absurd level, which makes you question why these two were considered to be in the same weight class. Seeing these two stand up head to head shows a complete difference in stature, which makes it almost unbelievable Adonis could even last a few rounds. Munteanu stands like a complete behemoth in the ring, which should frighten anyone. As an actor, he does not get much to work with but the desired impact of setting up someone who can mentally and physically intimidate Adonis certainly worked.
Taking over from Ryan Coogler is Steven Caple Jr. in the director’s chair, who does an adequate job with this material. The story given to him did not have the same richness as the first film, but he added his own level of technical style and utilized a similar camera tracking to Coogler within the ring. He shines with the entrances of Adonis into the ring with plenty of style.
With every opportunity to be similar to the dreadful Rocky IV, Creed II proves to be a strong sequel, which continues to build the legend of Adonis. He gets put through the wringer physically, mentally, and emotionally. This journey for him means plenty for the people around him and allows Rocky Balboa to have one more meaningful appearance within a set of movies going back to 1976.