Saturday, November 24, 2018

Creed II

Part Rocky III and part Rocky IV, Creed II offers the highs and lows of boxer Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) who wins the title but is then faced with a ghost from the past in the return of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and the introduction of his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu).

Despite the film going full-on-Rocky at times, director Steven Caple Jr. works to stay true to the tone of Creed by focusing as much on what is going on outside the ring with Adonis Creed as what is happening inside the squared circle. Sylvester Stallone returns again as mentor, although one conflicted about the history tied up in a Creed v. Drago match. Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad reprise their roles as Creed's support system and family whose love will be tested when Creed accepts the challenge from Viktor Drago over their objections, and those of Rocky.

With Munteanu speaking very few lines of dialogue, the script relies on Lundgren to act as the film's more vocal villain (while also exploring the reasons for Ivan needing this match for his prosperity and a future for his son).

Viktor Drago is impressive in the ring. Munteanu is physically imposing and a strong enough actor to play the handful of emotional scenes needed to dive into what the Drago family lost after Ivan's defeat to Rocky Balboa years before, but he does his best work in the ring as the next generation of the unstoppable Russian fighter. If the match offers Adonis a chance to win for his father, the match offers the Drago's the chance to reclaim lost glory, making it personal for all of those involved.

With far more personal motives, Creed II lacks the patriotism that Rock IV was completely wrapped-up in. That said, it works quite well as a sequel to both Rocky III and Rocky IV exploring Adonis Creed's struggles against an ominous new adversary and impossible odds. Still relying on Rocky's words of wisdom, plenty of "news footage" provided from Rocky IV, the Rocky score, and one hell of reunion between Babloa and the elder Drago, the film sets the stage with the old guard and then steps aside to allow Jordan and Munteanu to take center stage. Creed II succeeds in providing an entertaining new story built on the Rocky franchise that, like Adonis Creed, continues to carve out its own legacy.

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