Creed II (2018)
Creed II (2018)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.

Release Date: November 21st, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Caple Jr. Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris

 


 

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here aren’t really any worthwhile, new stories to tell with the characters of this long-running series – let alone the sport itself. Nevertheless, it’s amusing that “Creed II” is able to bring back recognizable personas from more than 30 years ago, which ties everything together – something the first “Creed” film already did by introducing Apollo’s son. In this follow-up, Russia’s fallen hero Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) returns, this time using his own son, Viktor (Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu), to vicariously reenter the ring, just outside of which Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) coincidentally remains.

In the United States, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) prepares for a title-claiming match against Danny Wheeler (Andre Ward), while Rocky emerges from the background, giving a motivational speech with his deep, scratchy drawl, which is borderline laughable. This franchise is almost to the point of spoofing itself. In an instant, Johnson – who is ultimately only known as Creed – is crowned the heavyweight champion of the world. This achievement isn’t presented as a gratifying, hard-won feat; instead, it’s merely the setup for additional bouts to protect the title – a series of battles that prove more difficult than obtaining the top spot in the first place. Of course, what’s truly on Adonis’ mind is a proposal to his girlfriend, Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), which inspires Rocky to reminisce about his own courtship of Adrian – brief yet touching moments that might have audiences wondering why they’re not simply rewatching the original 1976 Best Picture Oscar-winner that started it all.

Once again, one of the most interesting aspects of this film is Bianca’s deafness – an affliction that rarely makes it onto the big screen. Here, it also has an impact later in the picture, relating to genetics, though it goes tragically unresolved. Perhaps it’s no surprise that it doesn’t play as major a role as it should; eventually, all the little details are sidelined for inevitable matches and rematches. Strangely, the primary opponent begins as the underdog, considering that Viktor has a harsh life in Ukraine, starting very much at the bottom where Rocky once began. Sadly, the film isn’t interested in creating a level of emotional conflict or complexity; after the opening sequence, it’s evident that both Ivan and Viktor are designed to be unsympathetic, unfeeling villains, capable only of grimacing and sneering.

“That’s like a million years ago.” Instead of boasting the bravery necessary to write Rocky and Ivan’s reunion as a complicated blend of humbleness and guilt, it’s scripted to be a trite grudge, though it does offer a momentarily eyebrow-raising curiosity in the mention of Drago’s lost wife – Brigitte Nielsen as Ludmilla – who married Stallone in real life the same year “Rocky IV” was released. This premise of revenge predictably serves its purpose, generating for the umpteenth time the publicity stunts, theatrics, and mind games required to stage a moneymaking fight. “This is our chance to rewrite history!” Or, more accurately, yet another opportunity to repeat the past. Comically, it takes virtually nothing for Adonis to agree to the mismatched showdown, because that’s what is needed to cue the montages, the rap numbers, the warnings of brashness, the interviews, the press appearances, the arena light-shows, the weigh-ins that lead to spats, and Rocky sitting alone to contemplate the important reasons for continuing to climb into the ring.

Everything about “Creed II” happens like clockwork; there’s not a single moment that isn’t entirely anticipated (save for a couple of comic relief scenes dealing with family – a theme that garners far more screentime than actual boxing). Despite the marquee value of Drago versus Creed, this story is absolutely unoriginal – as well as mercilessly overlong. Oddly, even the fight choreography appears dull, sticking to familiar footage and training routines, as well as slow-motion punches and splattering blood that amplify the heavy hits but fail to show the skill of footwork and strategy. In the end, the message seems to be to do what you love, even if it kills you and mortifies your loved ones. But the real crime is the lack of the iconic theme music, which only appears once at the conclusion, snuck in as an afterthought, as if the filmmakers didn’t have the legal rights to use it.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10