When CREED II was announced, I admit I got worried. The first film’s director and co-writer Ryan Coogler was up in his own butt for Marvel making Black Panther. So Sylvester Stallone announced he was going to co-write the sequel and direct. Oh shit…(Stallone has not been a great screenplay writer as of late and an even worse director. But then Stallone decided to set his ego aside and let a different director, Steven Caple Jr. (known mostly for short films), take the reigns, yet still was a little weary that his hands was on the screenplay. But I needn’t worry, I should realize that Stallone knows he can’t just ham it up like he does his Expendables screenplays, he loves and cares about this franchise, and knows that love needed to be put into this sequel of a highly successful semi reboot of the franchise. While Creed II isn’t as great as the original, it gets pretty damn close, a very worthy sequel, and probably the third best in the Rocky franchise.
You have to hand it to a 8th movie in a franchise that makes the 4th movie look better than it actually was. When the first Creed came out in theaters, I was trying to think of ways the story could continue. And my first thought was that Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago could come back, and he could have a son that Adonis would fight, and that him and Bianca would either get engaged, find out she’s pregnant, or both, and he would have to balance that responsibility of staying alive to watch his daughter grow up while trying to find a way to beat Viktor Drago to secure his legacy and get semi-revenge on the death of his father. Whelp, I was right, and that is the plot of this movie.
You’d figure that if I could correctly guess the plot of the movie that I wouldn’t like it right? Wrong. While the movie’s journey is quite predictable (aren’t all the Rocky movies though?), the journey itself was nice, grounded, and realistic, and doesn’t go to one of the cheesier routes the later Rocky series took. This film is nice, gritty, and dark enough for audiences to take seriously. Also, I was really surprised by the arc that Stallone and co-writer Juel Taylor gave to Viktor and Ivan Drago. It’s very short yet very sweet, and added a little humanity in what would’ve just been another throw away role for Dolph Lundgren.
The acting is top notch as always. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson rule. Sylvester Stallone kind of takes more of a back seat in this film than he did the last, not wanting Adonis to potentially get himself killed by fighting Viktor, so trying to stay out of it altogether by not being in Adonis’ corner. In Creed, Stallone’s arc was huge as Rocky was battling his worst nemesis yet, cancer. In this he is in the shadows, giving sage advice until he needs to get himself more involved. He is still good in the role, and I’m glad that Stallone’s ego didn’t make him write a meatier role. He realized that Adonis is the story now, and he just needed to be a supporting guiding hand.
The boxing fight scenes are great and pack a punch, but while the first Creed you felt like you were actually in an arena with a giant audience, the background outside the ring this time seemed a little too green screened in, and it didn’t feel at all like I was in the stadium with everyone, and that was a bummer. But then two cameos from two people (other than Dolph) from previous entries in the series put a smile to my face and made me completely forgive some of the green screen tactics.
It’s a good story, and very entertaining. It was never going to be better than Creed, but we have to give it credit for coming mighty close to being as good. But the real problem here, if its successful, is that I don’t see what Creed 3 could be about. And while the fight/boxing formula worked this 2nd time around, I don’t know if third time would be a charm. The series now needs to take a different route, and I don’t know if Stallone is up to the challenge. Maybe Ryan Coogler could have an idea, but Disney owns his ass now. In a sane world, I would say Creed II is the perfect way to end this franchise. But you know that Hollywood will beat a dead boxer as long as it would a dead horse…
Rocky Franchise Order (IMO)
3. Creed II
4. Rocky Balboa
5. Rocky II
6. Rocky III
7. Rocky IV
8. Rocky V