Michael B Jordan shines once again as Adonis Creed, making for not only a worthy sequel but another great addition into the Rocky franchise. CREED II is a knockout.
Cinema does this often, they pit two foes against one another, one seemingly from another world, the other fighting for some sort of redemption. In this case both things are true for both of these men in the picture above. Great things always come in pairs. You always need that counterpart in your life. It helps build you up, maybe when things seem to be getting bleak. The Rocky franchise needed a little life after the third instalment. Enter 1985 and the release of Rocky IV and the world was introduced to one of the best villains in all of movie history with Ivan Drago. The man killed Apollo Creed for peep sakes. Now when people think Rocky, their mind will gravitate towards Ivan Drago. They are forever cemented with one another, that will be true until the end of time. Now in 1976 when Rocky won best picture, I don’t even think Sly Stallone himself could have imagined the success and the gravitas that would come with this iconic movie character. 40 years later and people are still chanting ROCKY, ROCKY, ROCKY, and admiring this person. So no matter how instrumental that original Rocky movie was, I think people tend to lean towards Rocky IV as their favourite. Yes, it’s a super cheesy 80’s movie, but Ivan Drago vs. Rocky Balboa is still one of the best fights in the history of cinema. Sometimes two characters can grace our screens and at the time we don’t really know what we are watching and how important it will be. I think after Rocky IV it left a lot of people asking “Whatever happened to Ivan Drago?” Well now 40 years later, we are fortunate enough to see these two mammoths share the silver screen yet again. Something I never thought possible, until 2015 and Ryan Coogler’s resurrection of this franchise with the incredible CREED. The second that movie ended I knew, I knew that this would be the direction they would go in because well, it just made so much sense.
After the massive success of CREED in 2015 in was a no brainer that there would be a sequel on the way. Continuing the story of Rocky through a spin-off was pure genius on the part of Ryan Coogler. Everyone loves Rocky Balboa and when he was reintroduced into our lives it really was a blessing. Well I don’t want to say that Coogler moved onto greener pastures but he was busy doing post-production work on Black Panther and couldn’t return to direct the sequel. Rather he helped with some of the writing and that honour fell into the capable hands of Steven Caple Jr. CREED explores the idea of being the underdog, what it’s like to scrap and battle for everything. Knowing that you need to work hard and put in the work to get what you want. Adonis knows that his name “Creed” alone could get him far in life, but he wanted to do it all himself and felt that the name Creed almost held him back. He fights for everything he receives, boxing, his love life and even his relationship with his mother. Now when you stop being a contender and a pretender and become the champ, what comes along with that? This is where CREED II starts. Adonis Creed is now a household name, what happens when you’re suddenly the biggest boxer in the world? Trouble usually comes for people in these circumstances and that’s where the Drago family comes into play.
I have the tendency to set expectations rather high for movies. When it was finally announced that Ivan Drago and his son Viktor would be joining the cast of CREED II, I think everyone knew this had potential to be really special. The Drago’s are back and if you’re a fan of this franchise like myself, you couldn’t help but feel giddy when Rocky and Ivan have their reunion. Like before Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is a man of few words, his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) says even less. That doesn’t mean these two don’t pose a serious threat. One of the best qualities of CREED II is the relationship and the story arc of the Drago family. They didn’t just make Viktor a big dumb brute. They could have, but even when Victor isn’t saying much, his body language is saying an awful lot. Viktor has a whole lot of pressure and responsibilities on his shoulder during this film. At times, I almost found myself rooting for him. He didn’t ask for this, he and Adonis are bonded by tragedy, its almost Shakespearean like. Caple JR. does a terrific job flushing out this father and son relationship. After Ivan is defeated in his home country of Russia, he becomes an outcast, he looses everything, including his wife. In order to gain that all back, well he is going to rely on his son and with that come tremendous pressure and massive shoes to fill. Viktor doesn’t understand why his father wants to regain the respect of the people that left him when he needed them the most. That all they need is each other and all they’ve ever had is each other. Viktor never says it but you can tell he admires his father and just wants to do what is best for his family. They delivered on the Drago side of the story and I don’t want this to be the end of their saga, we got too deep into their characters to pull out completely.
One of the most compelling aspects of CREED was how specific they made these characters lives. The city of Philadelphia came alive, like it tends to do within a Rocky movie. It becomes a character itself and our characters traits reflect the city that they inhabit. Truer words couldn’t be spoken for Adonis (Michael B Jordan) and Bianca (Tessa Thomson), gritty, hard-working, believe it’s them against the world. The chemistry between Thomas and Jordan is just so palpable, moments throughout the film, you honestly feel like they are a real life couple. It’s the driving force behind this movie, because they are dealing with so much themselves, and now this larger than life beast is threatening their world. Tessa Thompson goes beyond anything a “love interest” should do in a film like this, but when you have talent like Tessa Thompson, you get as much out of her as possible. Michael B Jordan, one of the best working actors today brings it yet again. Look this is a sequel to a spin-off, that had 5 movies come before it. You think we would be like enough montage moments, but no. 3 fights, 2 training montages and it all feels so familiar, but these are the aspects that fans of this series have truly loved to watch. If you were to take out these moments, it just wouldn’t feel right. We need these moments to remind us that this is indeed a flower that has grown from the Rocky seed. 1200 words deep and I haven’t even mentioned Sly yet. Champion of the world, now an aw-shucks grandfather. CREED II is all about family, Adonis and Bianca starting theirs, the Drago family and Rocky himself trying to come grips with reaching out to his son. Sly has perfected who Rocky is now and even his chemistry with Michael B Jordan is just incredible. These two work so well together and those emotional scenes between the two, they are hard-hitting gut punches. Everything just works, and at this stage in the game it shouldn’t, that is the ultimate testament to just how good this movie is.
It’s just everything I wanted it to be. I couldn’t have asked for much more. The only gripe with the movie is the downgrade in the boxing matches. But I think that was to be expected going from Coogler to Caple JR. Don’t get me wrong, I stilled enjoyed all the boxing stuff, but they really stick out in the first CREED, especially the one-shot boxing sequence. That’s my only critique of the entire movie. I couldn’t have been happier with the movie as a whole. They wrap this up so beautifully at the end, again I mentioned family and that’s the message they hit hard at the end. I know they will make more, I want more of these characters in my life. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Rocky, and I know so many people will feel the same way. I just don’t know where exactly they go from here. In order to not turn this into the Rocky franchise completely they need to be careful with their storytelling going forward. What I know I do want to see is Chadwick Boseman play the villain in the next one. I think it would be a cool spin and reverse the roles of Black Panther. I have a feeling people would go crazy over that idea. It’s just a worthy successor to CREED and I think it’s a damn near perfect follow-up. Makes you want to throw your hands up, actually I along with the audience opening night, couldn’t help but cheer during the final fight. So yeah, you get a little invested.
Check ya later.
Nate’s Movie Tour Reviews – CREED II = 99/100