**WARNING: THE FOLLOWING DISCUSSION CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR CREED II. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE MOVIE THEN STOP READING NOW.**
Creed II, the follow-up to 2015’s Creed is now in cinemas. The movie – directed by Steven Caple Jr – stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson and Dolph Lundgren and sees Adonis Creed stepping into the ring to fight Viktor Drago – son of Ivan.
I’m a fan of the Rocky/Creed film series, so earlier today I popped along to the local cinema to check out this latest instalment. You’ll be pleased to know it is infinitely better than 1990’s Rocky V – the worst entry in the series – but is it as good as the rest?
The reviews have only been so-so for Creed II and to be fair, I can see why most critics have not been blown away by the film, as it is a fairly predictable entry. But, is it bad? No – in fact, despite its minor flaws (which I’ll talk about momentarily), there is a lot to like about Creed II.
Let’s deal with the bad first.
For me, the reason why Creed II doesn’t quite hit the high mark is because of pacing. Whereas Creed was a soft reboot of the Rocky series, which could pretty much do its own thing, Creed II has a fair bit of baggage which at times slows things down.
You see, Creed II is effectively a sequel to Creed, a sequel to 1985’s Rocky IV (Rocky IV.5?) and is in essence Rocky VIII. That’s three movies! However way you cut it, the film has a lot of plates to spin and this means it can’t quite focus on one thing.
The biggest casualty of all this plate spinning is newcomer, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) who doesn’t really get much to do other than be token bad guy #1. Drago’s motivation is clear, sure, but he’s not a fully developed character and it’s a shame, especially as he looks like a formidable foe.
Drago’s father, Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), fairs a little better, but he too could have been given a little more development. Lundgren is fine in the role, it’s just the part itself which feels a tad under cooked and doesn’t give him any real meat to chew on.
He gets a moment to stand face-to-face with Rocky, to reinforce the bad blood which exists between the pair but then that’s it. This moment should have been one of multiple interactions between the two former opponents.
OK, so those are the bad points and they really are the only problems I had with Creed II, for the most part I enjoyed this movie. Bar Rocky V, I think the Rocky series is one of the most consistently enduring film series’ of all-time and Creed II does nothing to ruin this.
So, onto the good.
In terms of furthering the Creed & Rocky journey, there are some great character moments – both individually and collectively. Rocky & Creed’s relationship with each other feels heartfelt and honest – never forced – and it is magic when the two are on screen together. I’d have happily watched two hours of just Stallone and Jordan training, because it’s in these moments when we see the real heart of the story.
For me, the strengths of the Rocky series are the people and the relationships which are built up over time and this is even true for those characters who are no longer around. Rocky’s wife, Adrian hasn’t been in the series since Rocky V, but she still feels very much a part of the story thanks to graveside interactions and the same goes for Apollo Creed whose figure looms large over this movie even though he was killed off in Rocky IV.
The past plays a big part in this movie. Speaking of which, Creed II includes a couple of surprise cameos which connect this movie to the series as a whole. Brigitte Nielsen – last seen in Rocky IV gets a little screen time, as does Milo Ventimiglia who returns to the role of Robert, Rocky’s son, who last appeared in 2006’s Rocky Balboa.
These cameos are fun. Yeah, they do make this film more Rocky VIII than Creed II and all that plate spinning comes back into play, but as these are only cameos it’s fine – I didn’t expect more than a nod to their respective characters and that’s what I got.
At the end of Creed II I liked what was on offer and I felt like I wanted more. Not so much more of this particular entry – it told its story, I’m fairly content with that – but more from Rocky altogether.
I’m aware that Sylvester Stallone has suggested Creed II is likely to be his last hurrah with the series, but I don’t think it should be. Let’s be honest, we all thought Rocky V would be the end before Rocky Balboa hit screens and the same again until Creed arrived – so don’t count him out yet.
Personally, I’d like one more tale to provide the perfect swansong for Rocky. It doesn’t have to be a brutal, Logan-style ending with Rocky killed off in a dramatic fashion, but rather a fitting conclusion to the story.
Either way, for now, Creed II is a fair addition to the Rocky legacy and one which packs just enough punch to keep things interesting. It’s not perfect, but if you’re a fan of the Rocky/Creed series you should feel satisfied.
Creed II is currently on general release.