Ryan Coogler brought the attention and spotlight back onto Rocky Balboa in 2015 with his film Creed. I found that movie to be a thrilling and emotional sports drama about legacy and forming your own path. Therefore, I was excited, yet I must admit cautious about this sequel. My major cause for concern laid in the fact that Coogler was only returning as a producer. I believe he brought so much to that first film and was able to craft brilliant boxing sequences and an engaging story. Yet, after having seen the movie, I can say that it is certainly a crowd-pleasing follow-up, even if it falls short of its predecessor.
When discussing what works in this film, the performance of Michael B. Jordan needs to be discussed. He is just dynamic on the screen, demanding the audience’s attention with every line of dialogue. This has been a great year for Jordan, with his return as Adonis following his heartfelt and menacing role as Erik Killmonger in February’s smash hit Black Panther. The supporting performances across the board also bring a lot to the film, adding emotional beats and further development for Adonis. Obviously Stallone is a great presence, but I find Tessa Thompson’s role as Bianca to be one of the film’s best. Dolph Lundgren returning as Ivan Drago, as well as Florian Munteanu as his son Viktor, surprised me immensely. While their relationship, story, and performances are not the best facets of the movie, I must admit that I was surprised by what they brought to the sequel. I initially thought that this storyline would be a cheap ploy of nostalgia with regards to the story of Rocky IV, but the story by Cheo Hodari Coker weaves their story in nicely with the story of Adonis and his legacy. The fight sequences in this film are just magnificent – I recall reacting physically in several moments, particularly during the initial fight between Viktor and Adonis. These moments are a sure credit to new director Steven Caple Jr. – at first I was skeptical of what he could bring to the table, but now he is truly a director I will have my eye on.
While the wide majority of this film works for me, there are some things that hold it back from surpassing the original film. For one, while Stallone does give a tremendous performance, I would have liked to have had more connection to his character. Recently he took to Instagram to announce that this film will be his last turn as Rocky. If that is the case, while his ending scene is a nice and beautiful way to end his character’s arc, I’m likely more going to remember his Academy Award nominated performance in the first film as opposed to anything he did in this sequel. I also think the script, written by Stallone, lacks some of the dynamism and poignancy that was present in Coogler’s writing of the first film.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Creed II. While not a perfect film, it is entertaining and one I will surely watch again.