TL;DR – While it may tread along a path that is a bit predictable, the commitment of the actors and the emotion make it a must-see film.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Back in 2015, I didn’t really have any great desire to go see the first Creed film, a spin-off of a long-running boxing series that had felt like it was running out of steam didn’t seem like an enjoyable time in a world where remake after remake was getting greenlit. However, some people that I trust called me on my reluctance and really recommended it, so reluctantly I went and soon discovered how wrong I was. It was a beautiful film of struggle and triumph, fighting when no one believes in you, and how we battle both are internal and external demons. It was the film that immediately put Michael B.Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Ryan Coogler on my radar of performers to watch out for and ended up on my Top 10 Films of 2015 list. So when I heard they were doing a sequel I was incredibly excited, when I heard Ryan was not directing or writing it, I got a little concerned, but now I have seen it once again I should have known better.
Soto set the scene, after the end of Creed (see review) Adonis ‘Donnie’ Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has fought through the ranks and we join him as he enters the ring against Danny “Stuntman”Wheeler (Andre Ward) who he defeats and then finally obtains the WBC World Heavyweight Championship belt. Donnie is on top of the world, he has the belt that both his father Apollo (Carl Weathers) and trainer Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) once had, he is also in love and proposes to Bianca (Tessa Thompson),and everything is amazing. Of course, as life is want to do, in that moment of pure happiness an ill omen from the past comes back into their lives. A boxing promoter and general slimeball Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) arrives in Philadelphia with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son Viktor (Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu) to call Donnie out.Ivan famously was the boxer that killed Donnie’s father in the ring, and Donnie feels obliged to take on the match but this time he will have to do it without Rocky as he can’t be there watch another Drago kill another Creed, when he could have thrown in the towel and stopped it all those years ago. So Donnie and Bianca fly out to Los Angeles to prepare for the fight of his life, without his coach and mentor, staring down the barrel of his most difficult fight to date.
The first thing you see in this film is just how good the rapport is between the cast, and that is so important in driving both the story and bringing the emotional weight to bare. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson are two of the best young actors working in the business today, no matter what film/show they are in they bring absolute gold to their performances. However, put them in a film together and it is just amazing to watch. I am really glad they did not go down the road of what a lot of films like this year’s Jurassic Park Fallen Kingdom (see review) do and have them break up between the two films and then force them together to create artificial conflict. Instead, they show two very talented individuals that both support each other and their careers and passions but are also at times flawed human beings. This creates a deep bond both on screen and between the film and the audience that having two amazing actors amplifies. It also allows you to really get some amazing range, from lighter comedic moments to highs of joy,and the lows of loss.
I was concerned that this film would be less Creed II and more Rocky VII with Sylvester Stallone now in the driving seat, but this was not the case. He brings the weight of the years both as the character Rocky, but also as Sylvester Stallone bringing Rocky to life for over 40 years. I also liked how they added in Ivan’s son Viktor, at first he is this hulking shadow behind his father,this personification of anger and malice. However, as the movie goes on we learn more and more about Viktor’s life and what he has been subjected to, and even though you want him to lose, you can’t help feeling for him. Also,goodness is Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu is ripped as all hell, also Michael B.whilst we are on that topic. For his first major film project, Florian did an amazing job and I hope he gets to see more roles in the future.
There are a lot of themes the film is dealing with, the father-child relationship,the damage of time, and also the impact of toxic masculinity, and to explore the themes and story it means that there will be a couple of [SPOILERS] in the next two paragraphs.Donnie does not need in any way fight Viktor as he is almost a nobody in boxing with only his name behind him. However, they came into his home and called him out in his own backyard. So there are a lot of reasons Donnie agrees to the fight, honour, revenge, respect, but none of those are actually good reasons, so when he walks into the ring Viktor takes him apart mentally, well before he takes him out physically. Donnie needs to find what he is fighting for, and that is family, not pride. It also allows the film to play on some of the narratives of the past, because in many ways, it is Viktor and not Donnie that best relates to the Rocky Balboa from Rocky. He is a working-class guy from a poor part of town, which is fighting against the champion of his day. The film gives you that contrast as you see him up on those stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art looking at a legacy he was deigned.
While the story is exploring these interesting themes, it does follow a somewhat predictable pattern that you will kind of guess the outcome of once you realise that the two will be fighting at the end of Act One. That being said even in those moments where the rational part of your brain is going, look they are not going to kill off Creed a third of the way into his self-titled film, it is filmed in such a way that you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat for every punch, every bone snap, and every bell ring. This is all because the film does a great job at both staging the fights but also editing together so that there is a good flow to them building tension minute by minute.
In the end, do we recommend Creed II? Yes, yes we do. It is wonderfully acted, is telling a story of complex emotions, all tied together with some seriously good production work. If you loved the first one, or are a fan of sporting films, or enjoy films with a strong emotional core, then this is the film for you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,he’ll be talking about International Relations,or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Creed II
Directed by – Steven Caple, Jr.
Story by – Sascha Penn & Cheo Hodari Coker
Screenplay by – Juel Taylor & Sylvester Stallone
Based on – Characters created by Sylvester Stallone
Music by – Ludwig Göransson
Cinematography by – Kramer Morgenthau
Edited by – Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider & Paul Harb
Starring – Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Wood Harris, Brigitte Nielsen & Russell Hornsby with Milo Ventimiglia & Carl Weathers
Rating – Australia: M; Canada:PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M;United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13