Michael B. Jordan returns as Apollo Creed's son Adonis Johnson, who faces the challenge of his life from the son of the man who killed his father in the ring.
After the success of Ryan Coogler’s revamp of the Rocky franchise, collaborating with his muse Michael B. Jordan in the role of Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, there was something of an internal groan at the announcement of a sequel.
But that quickly turns into cheers upon watching the movie.
Bringing back Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo in the ring decades ago, and introducing his tank-like son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) was a risky move that new director Steven Caple Jr. more than pulls off with help from an emotional script, co-written by Sylvester Stallone that allows for more depth to Drago Sr.’s story.
Shunned by his wife (Brigitte Nielsen) and his homeland after his defeat to Rocky (Stallone), Ivan has lived a life in the shadows, raising Viktor like a boxing robot, and desperate to restore honour to the Drago name.
We meet Adonis on the eve of his world heavyweight championship fight against Roy Wheeler, but he’s given no time to enjoy his success, as canny fight promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) brings the Drago father and son to town to create his own iconic boxing bout.
“Rumble in the Jungle didn't just manifest itself. You need a narrative. Something that sticks to the ribs,” he slickly tells Adonis.
But despite being advised by both his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and Rocky not to take the bait, new champion Adonis can’t walk away from the emotional fight, and a chance to avenge his father’s death.
Rocky refuses to train him, and consumed by his emotions, Adonis, who is still intimidated by the legacy of his dead father, sets out on a difficult path.
While the outcome of the fight is rarely in doubt, the execution of it really puts you front and centre, so you’re cheering and jeering along with the crowd – literally.
Caple Jr. brings a fresh eye to the sequel with some nice visual flourishes, including recreating Muhammad Ali’s famous underwater shot with Jordan, extreme close-ups complete with pummelling slow-mo, and the classic Rocky training montage is excellently done. And it's anchored by a stunning score from Ludwig Goransson of Black Panther fame.
Creed II's focus on the exploration of the relationship between sons and fathers also helps to elevate it from a typical boxing film, and it makes for some very touching moments.
Unlike the good v bad casting of Lundgren’s Drago era, Viktor is given a more sympathetic backstory, which includes abandonment and being raised with little outward signs of love from his father. While he says little, there’s no doubt he looks the part.
Thompson’s Bianca is given more to do in the sequel, but her role is still very stereotypical, with her scenes mainly focused on Adonis’ needs, however, she shares some great moments with Phylicia Rashad (as Adonis’ mother Mary Anne) and Stallone.
Stallone adds magic to every scene he is a part of, with the moments between the fights just as compelling, and its touching to see the relationship that has developed between him and Adonis.
Ultimately Creed II is a great movie which is about more than boxing. Jordan, Coogler and Caple Jr. have brought something new to the movie franchise, but it remains true to Stallone’s original against all odds vision.
© Cover Media