'Creed II' (2018) Movie Review
In Case You Haven't Heard, I Love Rocky...
When it comes to the Rocky franchise, I am a huge fan; it is one of the select few series that I absolutely adore almost every single installment of. The first two Rocky films are dramatic powerhouses, Rocky III is cool and a lot of fun, Rock IV is easily the most "80's" of all 80's films and it's glorious, Rocky Balboa returns to form with the original tone of the movies in being emotionally driven and very effective in that. Creed continued that trend with a compelling drama, incredible fight choreography, and also being one of the best sequels of all time. You may have noticed that I skipped over Rocky V... Don't worry about it, it sucks and is irrelevant. No one needs to know about it, just drop it. Now. Thank you.
Now that we're all caught up on my opinions of the rest of the franchise, how does Creed II stack up? It's another film that effortlessly knocks it out of the park. Creed II is a worthy successor to the first Creed, as well as the Rocky series as a whole. I loved this movie, I was emotionally invested in everyone on screen, including the antagonists. I was riveted by every decision these characters were left with, excited by every heart pounding fight sequence, concerned about the well-being of what these events may lead to, saddened to the point of being on the verge of tears; everything a truly great film can deliver, this film delivers ten-fold.
If You Crossed Rocky II And III Together While Making It A Direct Sequel To Rocky IV, You Get This Movie!
Creed II is set some time after Adonis “Donnie” Creed’s fight against ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan and things to be going well in Donnie’s life right now; his boxing career is at an all time high now after winning a fight that earns him the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World, his relationship with Bianca has only blossomed and now they have become engaged to be married, Rocky and Donnie’s bond has only grown stronger inside and outside of the ring, even his mother seems to have come to terms with Donnie’s career as a boxer. All appears to be right in the world; that is until the man who killed Donnie’s father in the ring thirty years prior, Ivan Drago, returns to the states with his son Viktor to challenge Adonis and his title as champion. Stirring up an internal conflict within Adonis, which creates a wall between him and his makeshift family.
The plot is very reminiscent of Rocky III in the sense that the lead has lost the “eye of the tiger” (in other words, his passion to fight) after taking on a match with a superior fighter, in order to defeat his opponent and reclaim his title he must regain the “eye of the tiger” back. But it also contains elements from Rocky II in its tone while also some story components pertaining to fame, family life and the need to fight. It is sheer brilliance to me the fact that this hard hitting drama is a direct sequel to Rocky IV, which is admittedly the silliest of the Rocky series. I mean there’s a romantic subplot in Rocky IV between Paulie and a talking robot, the movie is far from being serious. And now that we’re taking a look into these people’s lives thirty years later and how the events of Rocky IV have significantly effected all of them in very serious ways is something I truly never thought I would see done in a Rocky film ever, I loved every minute of it.
One of the best aspects about this film is the writing because it’s easy to understand everyone’s point of view in this situation; you sympathize with Donnie’s struggle and you get why he feels compelled to take on this fight with Viktor, however not for reasons as trivial as revenge but actually develops the character of Adonis in an interesting way. It would have been easy to make Adonis’s motivation simply about avenging his father and that could have worked fine, but this film goes the extra mile and conveys a story about this guy trying to live up to everyone’s expectations of him. Especially after becoming the Heavyweight Champ, a title that was previously bestowed upon is father before him; not only does he feel a need to prove to the world that he’s worthy of his father’s legacy but to himself as well. It was one thing, in the first film, that he needed to come to terms with being a Creed. Now he needs to learn how to pay his respect to the title of Creed. Which Michael B. Jordan is perfect as Adonis, he knows exactly what to do in his acting and how to do it in a way that is so impactful. I don’t know how Jordon is as good as he is, but he somehow managed to deliver two phenomenal roles that are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum; his villainous role as Killmonger in Black Panther was possibly Marvel’s most fleshed out antagonists in several years and then Adonis Creed being a majorly sympathetic protagonist that you can’t help but route for, Jordan portrays them both incredibly and he has become one of my favorite young actors working today. I respect him very much and am always looking forward to seeing what he does next.
Adonis is far from being the only relatable character though, Rocky is also back for this sequel and again, you get exactly where he is coming from when Ivan and Viktor challenges Adonis; since Rocky still holds guilt over not throwing in the towel all those years ago for Apollo Creed that resulted in his death, now afraid of history repeating itself with Adonis against Viktor. Everyone that cares about Adonis fears that this fight could be the one to break him, in more ways than one. A lot of that fear is conveyed in just a look or a certain line delivery where the character is saying one thing, but deep down you can tell they are begging Adonis to not take the fight. Some reasons more obvious than others, being well that his father died in the very same way. Another reason from Rocky’s perspective for Donnie to not accept the fight actually sheds a fascinating light with the fact that Rocky also hasn’t truly recovered from his own fight against Ivan Drago. A topic that was slightly touched upon in Rocky V, but I felt was underutilized; Creed II actually brings up a fair point that after that fight things weren’t the same for Rocky and that has led him to a relatively lonely existence that he lives presently. Not only does Rocky have to deal with repressed memories being brought back to the forefront with Ivan, but he also is trying to figure out if he can do something about his own life or if it’s too late to resume a relationship with his own son again. Sylvester Stallone, as always, knows the character of Rocky Balboa like the back of his hand. There isn’t a beat that he misses when it comes to playing Rocky. He’s lovable, he’s relatable, he’s funny, he’s just an all around joy to watch. And any time he gets scared, I’m right there with him hoping for dear life that everything works out okay.
What may have surprised me most about Creed II is that it takes its time to develop the character of Ivan and Viktor Drago; one complaint that I had in the first Creed was that the antagonist of ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan was relatively underwhelming. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV is one of the greatest antagonists in all of the Rocky films and that is made even more verifiable with this movie. In Rocky IV he was this unstoppable Russian brute force of a machine that could legitimately kill a man in the ring, there wasn’t really much in the way of character in all honesty, but it worked for that movie. Creed II is all about supplying this man with an interesting character arc, delving into what has gone on in Ivan’s life since his defeat at the end of Rocky IV and revealing that his country had basically turned their backs on him when he could not win the title of Heavyweight Champion. This embarrassment to the Drago name pushes Ivan’s wife to abandon him and his son, Viktor, causing the two to fall into a pit of rage as they attempt to seek redemption. And finally a day comes where Ivan sees a way to achieve that redemption when the son of his deceased rival claims the champion title, he figures that Viktor being the more powerful opponent can easily dethrone Adonis and bring respect back to the Drago name. These aren’t 2-dimensional characters by any means; witnessing the terrible rut that Ivan and Viktor are stuck in after practically the whole world turned their backs on them, it’s clear why they need this victory. There were times where I wasn’t sure entirely who to route for, even though I never lost sympathy and knew exactly why Adonis needed to win, part of me also had plenty of empathy for the Dragos family and hoped that things would work out in their favor too. Even though this is a scenario that we know both sides can’t truly win in. This is one of Dolph Lundgren’s best as well, he plays the part in a way where you can still tell its that same stone-cold man from thirty years ago but time has done something; it’s difficult to put my finger on, but I could just feel something was broken inside of him and his desperation to fix it through his son. There’s a part of Ivan that probably wishes he could go back into the ring himself and claim the respect that he yearns to have again, but since he can’t it only makes him push Viktor to work harder. The arc with their father-son dynamic, their different views on their country and what goals they hope to achieve really kept me invested in them. Florian Monteanu was also engaging as Viktor, this was the first performance I have seen from him but I hope to see more from him.
Alright, You Were A Fan Of The Drama. What About the Fighting in this BOXING Movie?!
Every fight in this movie I was enthralled by, in the last act I was literally dodging punches before realizing that I’m not actually there in the action. That should be a compliment to the fight choreography, cinematography, editing, and the writing since I was so invested in the characters which made me feel a part of the fights inside the ring. A single punch felt like a tidal wave beating onto our characters, I was mesmerized by how brutal it felt and how perfectly the actors captured every swing. Of course with every Rocky affiliated comes a training montage and Creed II is no different, however this time around I appreciated that they brought a slightly different approach to the training with contrast of Adonis in his prime to when his is in recovery to training to beat a monster like Viktor in the ring. It was really cool take on a staple well known from these films and I liked the different ways it portrayed how Adonis had to go through physical changes in order to overcome his inner and outer demons. When Adonis went up against Viktor it was like watching a mere mortal battling a God, it was intense every time I punch was thrown. Every hit Adonis took I almost felt as though I took, I’m pretty sure at one point I stopped breathing; that’s how invested I was during these fight scenes.
You Think You Gushed Over This Movie Enough. Wrap It Up, Will Ya?
To make this short and sweet, I loved this movie; in case I didn’t make it very obvious before. I think this succeeds as a sequel to Ryan Coogler’s Creed and simply a film all on its own. It isn’t necessary to have seen any of the previous installments, although it does help add to the weight of these characters. Creed II does a terrific job in its deep storytelling, intense editing, and spot on direction. The whole cast performs to the best of their talents and are superb. I felt every emotion that this movie wanted me to feel and so much more. I had a great time with this film and I predict that anyone who was a fan of the first should feel the same as I did. So I strongly suggest that you check it out!
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© 2018 John Plocar