Creed II is a great example of a formulaic storyline still managing to be effective. With strong enough character progression and a focused story the clichés don’t feel so overwhelming. Director Steven Caple Jr. and his screenwriters know all too well that a boxing film not only will but must contain the usual suspects in order for any of it to mean anything. It’s the moments in between the workout montages with Eye of the Tiger playing to inspire that an identity of its own begins to form. The relationships our hero boxer has with the people who understand his desire but want him to survive his pride is where Creed and now Creed II really shine. These are the moments that matter, that elevate the film to something more than a run-of-the-mill boxing flick.
What Ryan Coogler made with the first Creed was something special, despite it being a franchise in its fourth decade. He breathed new life into it without forgetting what was, acknowledging it and embracing the future of established characters like Rocky and how they blend with the new, like Adonis Creed Johnson. With a kinetic energy to the camera work Creed proved that beauty could still be found in the sweat covered ugliness of boxing or more importantly the defeat faced in such a violent sport. With Creed II that tradition of in your face cinematography carries on but without ever losing the moments that demand a bit of distance, to let the characters breathe, to let the moment itself breathe.
Michael B. Jordan is a special talent that only gets better with each new performance. He establishes the legacy of being Adonis Johnson while still carrying the weight of being a Creed, the burden of defending such a lofty history. In the action scenes he is convincing with a boxer’s body and mind set on destroying his opponents but he effortlessly transitions into a tender man nervous but excited to continue his life with the love that makes his sacrifices all worth it, his ride-or-die, Bianca.
Tessa Thompson, like Jordan, continues to prove her worth as not only a true, natural beauty but a monstrous talent that we’ve only seen the very beginning of. Their chemistry is palpable and feels not only authentic but special in a way that only their loving gaze into each other’s eyes can convey. They stare and we feel it and their moments together on screen are something not only special and unique to them but also reminiscent of Rocky’s relationship with his lost love, Adrian.
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky is as dependable in his performance of the iconic character as ever before. Stallone brings the weathered hands of a lonely boxer still trying to find his place in a world that seemingly left him behind long ago. He misses his past but fully embraces Adonis’ need to see what he can do in the same arena that Rocky made so famous. But with a return to the realm that made him he knows the trappings all too well and his battles in the ring may be over but his fight to keep Adonis alive for the sake of his new family is where he finds his purpose beyond the spotlights. But like Rocky was once young, Adonis must ultimately find his own way, make his own mistakes, no matter how costly. Rocky can only hope his words are heard and Adonis takes heed before the Creed history repeats itself.
What makes Creed II stand on its own is the attention it pays to the “villains” of the story. The Dragos and the Creeds have a past that is nothing less than ugly but that doesn’t negate the fact that the Dragos have endured hardships long after the final bell rang in Drago v Balboa. In Russia, their homeland a loss is unacceptable and when Ivan Drago returned defeated his entire name was shunned in every way imaginable. That tainted name is now dragging down his only son and so a motivation for victory is all they have to reach for. By the time the main event happens between Creed and Drago you empathize with both boxers, you want both to win. The fleshed out story of these adversaries of Creed makes this a standout boxing epic that understands that everything happening outside of the ring is just as important as the fight inside. It’s all a battle of wills and Creed II has the will to become a boxing classic.
Rated PG-13 For: sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality
Runtime: 130 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Sport
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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