Back in the Ring: Creed II
Adonis Creed showed he could be a big name in the ring, as his father had been, and his rise continues in Creed II. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) gets his title shot after defeating a string of opponents. He gets the title belt when he defeats Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler (Andre Ward) in dominating fashion. Meanwhile, in Russia, boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) has been scouting Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), a punishing fighter much like his father and trainer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). When Creed takes the title, Marcelle looks for a match between the sons of the famed boxers. While Adonis wants the match, neither Creed's trainer, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), nor Adonis's partner, Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), want him to take the match, as both know that the match between the fathers ended in tragedy. Adonis does not take the advice and gets a new trainer in Tony "Little Duke" Evers (Wood Harris) when he and Bianca relocate to Los Angeles for the benefit of her singing career. The match seems destined to go Drago's way, until he throws one punch too many and gets disqualified.
The match, though, leaves Adonis severely injured. For weeks, Adonis keeps mostly to himself, despite knowing that he and Bianca are about to have a baby. Little Duke reminds Adonis that he needs to agree to another fight or risk vacating the title he won. His stepmother, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), reaches out to Rocky to try and help Adonis get back into life. After Adonis and Rocky reconcile, Rocky gets him ready to box again, and helps him to prepare for a Creed-Drago rematch. Both fighters, though, experience detours on the way. Viktor is unreceptive to Russian leaders who admire him and want him to fight for the honor of the motherland. When Bianca and Adonis welcome their daughter, they fear that the infant has inherited her mother's hearing issues. Nevertheless, Adonis and his corner and supporters travel to Moscow for the much-anticipated rematch.
Creed II once again goes into familiar story territory and delivers a winning combination. Bianca and Adonis's baby and potential difficulties are a bit like the problems Rocky and Adrian faced in Rocky II. A second generation of Creed and Drago set the stage for the main conflict in two showdowns. While Creed director Ryan Coogler has production credit for this follow-up, the director of note is Steven Caple, Jr., whose only other feature was The Land in 2016. Stallone helps to provide the screenplay and keeps most details from the previous films consistent. However, I noticed that both Creed and Wheeler were depicted as light heavyweights in Creed, but have moved up to the heavyweight division in the sequel. Still, these characters show they are just as interesting as they have been, even though the film moves along with almost complete predictability.
Jordan, Stallone, and Thompson once again give solid performances. Jordan shows a boxer who gets his biggest challenge to date in the man who's looking to dominate in the ring. Adonis had had challenges with both Stuntman and Ricky Conlon in the first film, but young Drago shows he's as physical as his father - and just as obsessed to show the weight class that nobody can withstand his barrage of punches. Jordan also has the movie's best moment as he anxiously watches his daughter's audiology exam. Stallone is still at his best in one of his most beloved roles. He shares his knowledge of the ring, and offers his advice to Adonis. Even though the decision to box Adonis went against his opinion, he comes around to forgiving young Creed and gets him ready for the rematch. Thompson is very good as the young singer who finds herself in the position of dealing with a damaged partner. She remains devoted and concerned as their lives change. Brigitte Nielsen reprises her role as Ivan's former wife, Ludmilla, as does Milo Ventimiglia as Rocky's son, Robert Balboa, Jr.. ESPN personalities Max Kellerman, Linda Cohn, and Scott Van Pelt appear as themselves.
It has been said that Creed II is not only the sequel to Creed, but also to Rocky IV. While Adonis Creed continues his career in the ring, the man who killed his father in a match looks for redemption by training his son to do what he could not. The Rocky/Creed saga, though, has been much more than the fights at the climax of these films. The series has also been about family, both biological and boxing. Adonis Creed already had a good life before he committed himself to the sport of his father, but he could not have achieved his success in the ring without supportive family and friends familiar with the sport. Perhaps he will do what his father failed to do. All Adonis Creed has to do is learn how to listen better to the people in his corner.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Creed II 3 stars. The time of a new Creed has come.
Creed II trailer
© 2018 Pat Mills