Director Steven Caple Jr. takes the reigns of this sequel to Ryan Coogler’s 2015 smash hit introduction to Adonis Creed, a spin-off/sequel/reboot to the Rocky series. Does this sequel win round two?
Absolutely, it does. Loosely taking place six professional fights into his boxing career, Adonis juggles his life with Bianca and mentor-ship with Rocky Balboa. Meanwhile in the Ukraine, Ivan Drago trains his son in hopes to reclaim the glory he lost three decades ago to Balboa. A fighting promoter approaches them with the opportunity, which they eagerly take, to fight Adonis Creed, creating a legacy fight between the two names. Much to the disapproval of Bianca and Rocky, a bullheaded Adonis accepts — to which they question his real motive for fighting. What follows in Creed II is a journey to recovery of both body and mind.
The story challenges Adonis to answer what this fight’s importance is, and what he stands from losing. Life is a never ending journey to self-discovery and this second outing doesn’t disappoint. Characters have always been the backbone of the Rocky, and Creed, films.
While the fighting is stellar, it’s the characters’ attempts at balancing their lives that make these films as spectacular as they are — and Caple Jr’s entry is no different. He puts his own stamp on the Creed legend, telling a tale that uppercuts the heart, and gently places tears in your eyes throughout. I was curious about this new director, and whether or not he would insert his own voice. Would he have something different to say with these characters? Films created into a series can easily fall into repeating what was done before, and I was glad this film didn’t.
Michael B. Jordan is arguably one of the best actors of his generation, and he shines as bright as ever here in the title role. Despite Adonis’ faults and flaws I wanted him to learn and become better as a person, not just as an athlete. I wanted him to win, not just in the ring, but at life. There is still much to say about the supporting cast. Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, and Phylicia Rashad (and more) create wonderful balance of characters who are just as important as Creed himself.
On the Drago side of the story, I found myself just as captivated on this rise of their father and son journey, and in some ways rooting for Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) as well. Also, to just mention one scene in particular: at one point, when Adonis is hospitalized, Rocky is visiting him and with very little, Adonis seemed to have rather heard Rocky tell him “I told you so” instead of what he actually got from him. Rocky knew Adonis’s head wasn’t in the fight and wanted to make it clear with compassion. Despite Rocky’s attempt to be there for support, Adonis turned him away. Watching him break down with the amalgam of pain and anger in that moment was an emotional breaking point, and was just one of the many moments of remarkable character writing.
While the Creed, and Rocky, movies are known for their spectacle inside the ring (not counting Rocky V), Creed II proves that any entry to a pre-existing series can be spectacular as a whole if the story and characters are written with love and care. Not nearly enough can be written about the passion that was poured into this project. It has nostalgia, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with it. It’s part of the story and treats it as history and this entry is a well welcomed part of Creed/Rocky history. 4/5 Rounds.