Creed makes me wish I had reviewed films sooner. In a time when cinema was seemingly dominated by reboots and remakes and sequels, Creed was seemingly another roll your eyes film of which you had one question, why? I remember clinging on to a bit of hope as I had heard of Ryan Coogler’s great work in Fruitvale Station so the fact they were giving the reins to a genuinely talented director was gratifying. Now if you ask me how to do a reboot right, I would tell you to go watch Creed. It had everything a reboot should be capable of along with new surprises, now the path continues to be laid out with Creed II. No Ryan Coogler as director this time, but nevertheless, Creed II is a very worthy successor.
What stood out to me with the first Creed was the bond of father and son, which was explored in various avenues, but now this film has added the Drago’s and the history between the Creed’s and the Balboa’s, the father and son themes are taken to a whole different level through the character of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) with each side fighting inner demons. The powerful motivators of revenge and hate are at play here, but what is special is the connection these characters having with rewriting history and avenging their respective fathers. Through the different motivations of revenge and hate, we see how differently these characters deal with vengeance, so when it comes to the fight there is more at stake emotionally which is a great improvement and for me personally topples the motivations of the first Creed.
We’ve talked sons, now we move onto fathers. Sylvester Stallone surprised everyone by bringing back Rocky Balboa in a performance that was so good, he received an Oscar nomination. He proves it wasn’t a fluke with another powerful performance. A part of his character that was only touched on in the first Creed was his relationship with his son Robert Balboa (Milo Ventimiglia), Creed II builds on this with Rocky willing to train his surrogate son Adonis but is still fearful to even contact his own son. His isolation is shown the most beautifully through skilful cinematography, there’s a lovely scene in which he almost calls Robert but put the phone down at the last second, the film then cuts to a wide frame within a frame shot to illustrate how closed off he is from Robert. Great camerawork adds so much depth to an already deep character, constructing a new appreciation for The Italian Stallion.
A highly anticipated character return, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is a very different person from last time we saw him. In Rocky IV, Ivan was the embodiment of the Soviet Union’s power with a single-minded attitude to be the best which formed his lack of humanity. Creed II takes gigantic steps to make this character appear more human as we learn he lost everything since his defeat to Rocky which has broken him to the point where he is using Viktor to shelter from his humiliation.
Every character in Creed II is a character you care about and because you care about them so much, the fights are more thrilling to the point where you begin to feel every punch being thrown in a whole sequence of great choreography. It feels very much like you are in the crowd with the urge to yell and cheer because of what’s at stake for each character. The entrances are impressive visually adding to the grandeur of the scene, just tiny things that make the scene that more engaging.
Stephen Caple Jr. is brought in to take over from Ryan Coogler, and quite evidently has done a fantastic job with the characters, but he has brought in a more traditional style to Creed II that in some ways different to what Coogler brought and I wish it could have followed a similar path. What the first Creed brought to the table was an urban vibe to its presentation, the city of Philadelphia felt like its own character because it showed off the community, and I couldn’t feel the same way about Creed II. The presentation felt almost too traditional at times and, a common criticism of the Creed films, too Rocky-like. Injecting more established grittiness into this film I felt would have paved a steadier path.
Something that was pointed out to me is how most of the film is reflective of Rocky IV, some good, some bad. One, in particular, is stereotyping characters, particularly the Russians which I felt was too on the nose. There are understandable moments like the Russian crowd booing Creed, that’s just out of home country pride, but when it gets too bizarre like in scenes where the Drago’s are sitting at a grand table, in a grand palace, with Russian officials, little traces of real-world reflections start to creep in. the film makes the effort to show the Drago’s are human, why not the people around them.
Watching Creed II, you do feel that certain pieces have been lost due to the loss of Coogler as director, but that doesn’t mean that Stephen Capel Jr. has done a fantastic job in keeping the blood of this series pumping. Creed II may not be as groundbreaking as the first film, but my god does it come close. Creed II links its characters to the overall theme like no other film this year, putting them first and then the story. The emotional weight it carries into the fights is a lot stronger making the stakes higher making this one the more audience engaging films of the year. The Creed series is a diamond amongst stones because it shows no matter how tired a franchise may be, there are always ways to refresh it as long as you treat it with respect.
Final Result: 9/10 – Excellent
Have you seen Creed II? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment below.
Next Time: The Old Man & The Gun