This is propelled by the strength of the characters and their performances but is it hindered by it’s ties to the parent franchise?
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The first Creed movie was an unexpected success when it came out. A fresh faced director in Ryan Coogler and a brilliant young actor in Michael B Jordan delivered us the best Rocky movie since the original Oscar winning first film.
This time around there’s a new director in Stephen Staple Jr who was hand picked by Coogler, Jordan and the man himself Sylvester Stallone.
Can you enjoy this movie having not seen any other Rocky movies? Sure, but I think it’s good to have some prior knowledge to fully appreciate the story here. Particularly Rocky 4—a film I loved as a young boy but, If I’m being honest, it’s a big bloated pile of 80s schlock. If you take a closer look, there’s not much to Rocky 4 beyond wall to wall training montages and a weird narrative about the Cold War. It hasn’t dated all that well. However, spoiler alert, Rocky 4 is where Apollo Creed was killed at the hands of the big Russian, Ivan Drago.
The main event in Creed 2 is getting to see Apollo’s son Adonis Creed, face off against Ivan’s son Victor Drago. Nostalgia had me frothing at this prospect but because of the film Rocky 4 is, my lactose intolerant logic was prepared for a trip to the cheese factory.
By that, I mean I was ready to spray crap all over this movie.
The story is the old cliche, fighter experiences pain and failure, loses way, discovers humility, finds something to fight for, epic training montage leads up to final act where all the hard work pays off and there’s a flood of emotions as the credits roll.
Thankfully, even with that formula applied Creed 2 still manages to honour and actually improve the Rocky mythology.
Primarily it’s down to the amazing performances from each and every member of the cast. Stallone, is brilliant as an older Rocky and fans will note how he has achieved his final form and almost become the character of Mickey—his trainer from the earlier films who was played so well by the great Burgess Meredith. Tessa Thompson is really strong as Creed’s wife Bianca. She occupies her own narrative and combined with Phylicia Rashad, who plays mama Creed, forms the backbone of the movie countering the macho side of the male characters with inner strength and sensibility. Florian Munteanu is monstrous as Victor Drago, and brings complexity to the character in spite of not having much dialogue. Dolph Lundgren is surprisingly excellent as daddy Ivan and provides depth that was sorely missing from his character in Rocky 4. There’s more to Ivan Drago than him just being a villain, we’ve come a long way since the typecasting from Cold War movies in the 70’s and 80s.
Or have we? I’m still trying to figure out if this is merely history repeating itself. Tensions between the US and Russia are higher than they’ve been in a long time, Drago and Rocky meet again. Are we actually time travelling here?
Of course the cast aren’t worth a dime if they’re not rounded out by a solid lead and Michael B Jordan delivers in spades. He puts in such an emotional performance as Adonis Creed that you truly feel the weight of what this young man is experiencing, in and out of the ring. His performance extracts so much empathy from the audience and his chemistry with Stallone.
There’s a payoff for fans of the franchise who loved Rocky 4, or felt like they deserved better from that movie. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first Creed movie, Creed 2 is a very decent sequel with one or two little surprises.