CREED II Review
"An old-school uppercut that still knocks out with a snazzy blow."
The previous film introduced us to a new protagonist, Adonis, son of Apollo Creed a long time friend to our beloved Balboa. We know how the journey began for Rocky, how it ended for Apollo. However, this film chooses to begin in Kyiv showing the story that we forgot about. We get to see Ivan Drago and his son Viktor living a dejected life, abandoned by their nation and Viktor's mother after Ivan's defeat, 33 years ago. Their hardship and hatred are enhanced by the snow-covered, harsh landscape. Viktor is a guy raised in shame & abandonment along with newspaper clippings and trophies that contribute to his father's name and ruin. Unlike its predecessor, this film is not about Donnie's family name but the sentiment that is the word - 'Creed'.
Post the prologue we reach a more relieving place with upbeat tonality. Adonis is preparing for his Heavyweight Championship bout. This scene involves intricate filmmaking. Bianca and Donnie converse using sign language due to her hearing disorder, an exposition to a later event in the film. The scene dexterously uses blocking and focus for introducing Rocky back to the narrative. He's in the scene constantly but not in the frame that we were watching. This is also a poetic way of showing Balboa's role in Adonis' story - he is just a mentor, a bystander. This is not his fight. In another scene when a concerned Adonis asks about Rocky, Bianca says - "He has his life here, we got to make ours". This precedes a montage of Rocky's routine, pictures on the fridge and a cemetery bench. His struggle involves Adrian, Pauly and Bobby. This connects him with Adonis - both of them have family issues.
Adonis has a different struggle this time. In the previous film, he was an underdog trying to achieve and live up to his father's legacy. This film begins by making him a Heavyweight Champion while bringing to him the joys of a married life and fatherhood. He's reaching higher grounds while the stakes and struggle are building up.
Both the fighters are protagonists. While Adonis lived with the absence of his father, Viktor had no mother - Both his natural mother (who abandoned him in infancy) & Mother Russia. This is their motivation.
Viktor is the underdog but he never seems like one. Adonis is agile and a showman like his father while Viktor is a man of few words and very powerful, effective punches. He breaks down in only one scene while having dinner with his countrymen and mother ( he becomes more humane and we develop empathy for his character). They share a bloody history that Buddy Marcelle, a boxing promoter decides to exploit by announcing a match between Adonis and Viktor (the core conflict of the film). Buddy is a cunning showman. A song in the film says - 'It doesn't make sense but it makes Dollars', that's Buddy's way. This core conflict also rekindles the one between Rocky and Ivan. Ivan tells Rocky about stray dogs in Ukraine who can go days without food, knowing only fight and survival. To this Rocky replies - "We put strays away here".
When Adonis makes plans and prepares for the fight, we also get glimpses of Viktor's brute training. The screenplay behaves as an equalizer.
As it happens in all typical boxing movie templates, Viktor hammers Adonis down. There are smoothly cut transitions to Rocky watching this on television. Without a disapproving Rocky's guidance, Adonis and his pride shatter down. That's when Rocky helps him get back on his feet while he realizes what's he truly fighting for - his love for boxing. Adonis develops clarity when he adopts a more fluid approach.
Apollo though dead is the narrative's part. He speaks through his images and Adonis his son is his living image.
This film talks about the generations. It explores the relationships between Rocky and his son, between Ivan, Viktor and Ludmilla and Adonis, Apollo and Amara. Amara inherited her mother's hearing disorder but she also has her father's creed. There's a scene where Adonis tends to her daughter while Bianca's away. He goes back to the gym and takes Amara along. Amara has been crying all this while and stops when Adonis starts to train, but Adonis breaks down into tears. During this scene, we see a shot of Adonis having Amara in his arms and Apollo's image in the background.
'Fighting on the Backfoot' moments:
- While the earlier film built an identity for Adonis Creed, this film tries to play more with the nostalgia factor.
- Ryan Coogler's direction in the first film involved commentary on representation and identity while Steven Caple Jr's film is more of a drama and has mellow themes.
- The film takes too long to reach its core conflict (about half of its runtime). It tries to include too much within its time frame.
- The film uses the same old boxing/fighting/wrestling template and falls into its trap for quite a while. It is predictable.
The punchier parts :
- The final act of the film triumphs over the weaker moments and survives the cliches. Michael B Jordan is a star since the very first frame and depicts rage, shame and struggle with an intrinsic undertone. Sylvester Stallone is natural and becomes Rocky effortlessly. You can see Ivan's hunger in Lundgren's eyes and his love for his son when the final fight ends. Florian Munteanu's performance is as strong as his character. Ludwig Goransson is back with his gym playlist worthy background score.
- Tessa Thompson hits the bag down with her smashing performance.
- The pre-fight walking intros are visually dazzling.
"Viktor is a man raised in hate. He grew up in the unsparing and arid cold of Ukraine. To beat him in a rematch, Adonis trains in the unbearable desert heat. All that muscle is a result of the hustle."
The film ends with Adonis reclaiming his title. The film doesn't vilify the Dragos. At the end of the final bout, the viewers feel content at Donnie's victory, but our hearts break for Viktor's loss as well. Both the grandfathers meet their grandchildren - Rocky reconciles with Bobby and Adonis introduces Amara at Apollo's grave. This isn't just Apollo's heritage. It is about Drago and Balboa's creed too - A creed that's been 33 years in the making (Creed +2 is Creed 2).
"With Amara, Adonis gets a new creed and his championship belt has medals with Apollo and Rocky's images embedded on its right edge. The generations stay together."
*Side Note: The end credits, mention Adonis' full name as Adonis Johnson and not Adonis Creed.
#5StarNahiDoonga - "The heavyweight championship belt is already star-studded."
"Through the 2 lenses of my spectacles"
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