My Favorite Movies – Creed II (2018)

17 Sep

By Tanner Smith

Yep, Creed II now joins Rocky, Rocky II, and Creed in my collection of favorites. In fact, God’s honest truth here…I even think about “Creed II” more than I think about “Creed!”

“Creed” is a great film and an even greater sequel in the “Rocky” franchise (or rather, “Rocky/Creed” franchise). It breathed new life into the story of the familiar character of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), gave us new engaging characters in up-and-coming boxer Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and deaf musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and didn’t need to retcon the other sequels in order to further the story. Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Black Panther) did a remarkable job here.

I love it. It’s great–and so is “Creed II.”

Ryan Coogler isn’t at the helm this time (though he did help produce it; he’s also a producer for the upcoming “Creed III”). But we have Stallone writing again (co-writing this screenplay with Juel Taylor, with story by Sascha Penn and Cheo Hodari Coker) and welcomed a bright young director named Steven Caple Jr. (whose debut film “The Land,” I did see after my initial review of “Creed II”–very good work; check it out!). Plus, Ivan Drago, the Russian super-boxer from “Rocky IV” played by Dolph Lundgren, is back–and what’s even better is that Lundgren (along with Stallone, who created the cartoonish-villain character of Ivan (“I must break you”) Drago way back in the 1980s) humanized the character years later for this story.

That’s one of the things I, as well as other “Rocky” fans, love about “Creed” and “Creed II”–the events of the otherwise-silly (but still somewhat awesome) “Rocky IV” (particularly the death of Apollo Creed at the hands of Drago in the ring) are carried over for dramatic effect and consequence. Drago and his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) are the antagonists of “Creed II,” and they feel more like real people with emotional conflict surrounding them, thus making the familiar character of Ivan Drago all the more interesting. When I learn about the shame he went through in his home country after he lost to Rocky in the ring decades ago, and now he’s training his son to be the next best killing machine decades later, I’m very curious to see which direction he’ll go in the final act when a lot more is at stake than in your typical sports drama. (It’s also great to see Brigitte Nielsen back and reprising her role from “Rocky IV” for a few minutes of screen time–even her appearance leads to dramatic tension late in the film.)

The heroes are still very appealing. Donnie is still cocky and abrasive, but he’s also still learning (the hard way, to say the least) and he has moments of greatness in him. I liked Bianca better in this film than in the previous film, though that may be because I like her and Donnie together now that they’ve been a couple for a while. (I felt the same way about Adrian in “Rocky II”–by the way, I love the callback to the proposal scene from that movie.) And of course, there’s Rocky Balboa himself–still getting older, still long past his glory days, but most importantly, still there for those who need him. Just when I thought “Creed” gave us what was left of Rocky’s complexity, “Creed II” reminds us that while there’s still Stallone, there’s still Rocky–and he’s always welcome anytime.

There’s a lot for me to really like about “Creed II,” and I can’t wait to see “Creed III” (which is directed by Adonis Creed himself, Michael B. Jordan). I’ll keep seeing these movies if they keep giving me people to care about and emotional weight to be invested in.

And keep an eye out for this Steven Caple Jr. character–I think he’s going places.

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