The Rocky franchise has a lot of hits (Rocky 1,2,4), a couple of average films (3, Rocky Balboa) and one universal stinker that no one likes (5). When the franchise was rebooted and focused on the son of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, I think most of us agree Creed was one of the best movies in this series and a return to glory. While I didn’t see Creed in the theater, I was pleasantly surprised on how much I enjoyed the first one. And because Hollywood is the way it is and everything needs to be a drawn out franchise with little to no focus in original stories, a sequel was bound to come. I was a little on the fence because of the quality of the first one was gonna be hard to top, as well as the original director, Ryan Coogler, producing but not directing the movie. As most of us know, sequels are the hardest movies to not only make well, but make as good if not better than its predecessor. Coogler had a lot to do stylistically and also wrote the script to the first Creed in making it a success. Creed was the coming out party for Coogler as well, and now he’s directing Black Panther for Marvel and is on track to become in the conversation of the best working directors in the business. But, with the lore of the second movie and great trailers that have come out to promote this sequel got my hopes up thinking this movie could be one of the best blockbusters of the year.
I was glad my hopes got up. Creed 2 RULES. The story is simple to follow but provides a lot of depth to many different characters, even those I thought were gonna be tough to develop more than they might have been established (DRAGO COUGH COUGH) with some masterclass shots from the director and cinematography standpoint, as well as a absolute banger soundtrack produced by Mike Will Made It. A quick recap of this movie is Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has won the Heavyweight title and was challenged by Victor Drago (Florian Munteanu) son of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), AKA the man who murdered his father. On top, he is engaged to his love interest from the other movie Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and has a newborn child (baby). Of course the legend Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is battling his own demons while trying not to have his friend and second son basically feed himself to the Russian beast that the Dragos are.
Just like the first Creed, Creed 2 does a fantastic job developing these characters and their relationships with each other. I think the real shining moment of this movie is how many layers there are to the Dragos. You see the burden put on Victor as he is the sole hope to bring back glory to Russian boxing as well as the glory that was once associated with the family name. On top of his dad, the former Russian destroyer until Rocky out lasted him in Rocky 4, pushing his son to become the winner he never was, which caused him and his son to be outcast to the nation of Russia. Rocky 4 is a cheesy pro America boxing movie for the most part (which is why I love it) and Ivan was portrayed as this machine from a foreign land who came to destroy Rocky. This shows the aftermath of what happened after his loss and the realization of losing really well. The best part is the end after the fight between Creed and Victor when SPOILER ALERT: he throws the towel in to save his son. For those who are familiar with Rocky 4, Rocky didn’t throw the towel in when Apollo Creed fought Ivan in the exhibition that killed Apollo. That scene gave me instant goosebumps, as a nice call back to the predecessors while showing Ivan caring more about his own child than glory and pride.
MBJ and his camp do great as well. You see the struggle of the first encounter he has with Victor and getting absolutely throttled, and how he has to train and become better to beat him. On top of that, he has to become a father at a time of being a great champion, as well as coming to terms that just like his fiancé, his daughter might not have the ability to hear while trying to be a new father. Tessa Thompson is great as well, as she plays the motivator and his rock throughout the movie as well. No complaints from me there. Stallone gives another great Rocky performance after his Oscar caliber one from the first Creed. The face-off he as with Drago 30 years after their fight was just pure fan service porn and I loved it. He symbolically hands the reigns of the franchise to MBJ at the end of the movie in a very subtle yet wonderful manner. I think the hallmark of this series going forward is the performances, as I don’t think there has been a bad one yet.
Steven Caple Jr is the director this time around. To be honest I’ve never seen his work before this movie, but I will give props to this man. He directed the ever loving hell out of this movie. The one shots of the actual boxing matches are some of the best tracking shots and use of lighting in the entrances of the fighters and in the arena itself is truly stunning. The scene where MJB and Stallone go to the desert to train what is described as “Hell” and the moments that are portrayed from running up down the one way road in the middle of the Vegas desert, beating the ground with a sledgehammer, getting destroyed by a medicine ball, etc was just great amplified with a killer song from Mike Will. I think this is it for Caple Jr. as far as the movie that gets him to the next level of directing in Hollywood. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is courted by your Marvel or DC to get him in on a blockbuster superhero movie, similar to Coogler before him.
The only thing that is preventing me from putting this above the first Creed is the overall thematic of the movie. I prefer for a boxing or sports movie to be more grounded and gritty, which is why Philly in Creed was so important because it brought a sense of authenticity and realism to this movie. Creed 2 obviously shows Adonis getting the fame and glory of being a heavyweight champion, which makes sense from a growth standpoint. But the rags to riches story of the first one just give it a better rating for me personally. I think the desert scene brings a little of what I needed to this movie, but it’s no Philly. Also, I think Drago should have been the perfect villain for the third one. This movie should have focused on Creed winning the title and getting his moment of greatness. This movie would have been a perfect trilogy ender but for a sequel I have my doubts on where this series goes from here. Who else could he fight to end this trilogy that would have had an emotional impact as Ivan and Victor Drago, but I digress. I’m sure people will yell at me for this but guess what, this is my blog dammit and I will say what I want to say. Deal with it internet.
Creed 2 is an absolute powerhouse and should be seen by everyone this holiday season. An overall sequel masterpiece that might not be better than the first Creed, it’s still better than the majority of other movies in the Rocky movie universe. I’m sure there will be a third movie to cap off this series and put a bow on it, which makes sense but I have some doubts on where it could go form here. Regardless, Creed 2 is a rare great sequel that lives up to its predecessor.
Score: 8.9/ 10 Rounds