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Released: 30th November 2018 (UK)
Length: 130 Minutes
Director: Steven Caple, Jr
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward and Wood Harris
Translating the wildly popular Rocky franchise to the current decade was no easy task, but 2015’s Creed was a standout effort, continuing the four-decade long story in an organic and deeply meaningful way. Much build-up has surrounded the sequel, which makes use of past events to drive its narrative.
Picking up a few months after the first, Adonis Creed has climbed to the top of world boxing but when Victor Drago, son of the man who killed his father Apollo thirty years before, challenges him to a fight, the prize-fighter trains not only to keep the belt but also to rewrite history. Swapping back and forth between the two opponents, Creed II is finely balanced on delivering its plot both in and out of the ring; the result is equal parts gritty actions and emotional drama. The best aspect of the story is how it takes the over-the-top and campy tone of Rocky IV and retools it, creating a more modernised and serious tale. It portrays the characters in a more realistic light and the film is better for it. With that said, Creed II ends up being quite predictable, especially in the first major fight scene. You know what will happen at the film’s halfway point and while it isn’t a repeat of previous Rocky films, it’s still noticeable and difficult to vary up with such a long series.
There’s a seriously thunderous power to Creed II, one which highlights the distance between it and the first film; with Adonis now at the top of the boxing world, there’s a higher level of build-up to the fight, something reflected by the more rousing coverage and commentary at the boxing venues. Two components of the presentation greatly impressed me; the lighting and sound design. Just like the original, Creed II ensures that the audience is fully enveloped in the fight; you feel the visceral crunch of every impact between the two boxers. This is complemented by a rousing musical score by the returning Ludwig Göransson that conveys the magnitude of the battle to come; even Tessa Thompson gets involved with a dramatic music number at the film’s climax. The lighting forms an excellent backdrop to the proceedings, being low-lit and ambient for dramatic scenes and dazzling for the boxing scenes. With a collection of slow-motion shots, close-ups and mid-shots the fights themselves are blistering and energised, not leaving a single detail out. The presentation of Creed II is outstanding from top to bottom.
For the most part, the same is also true of the characters, who carry the theme of family. Both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are powerhouses in their roles, continuing their superb chemistry; the past from Rocky IV creates a noticeable friction here and these personal stakes form the backbone of the story. There’s also a higher level of family drama, with Creed’s wife Bianca having a baby; Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad (As Adonis’s adoptive mother Mary Ann Creed) both provide the heart of the story, a wariness that history may repeat itself. This humanity is what makes the characters so believable and Creed II contrasts this with the more unforgiving, beaten down nature of Victor Drago; as opposed to the super-villain tendencies of 1985, both Ivan and Victor and more fleshed out in this film; we see the harsher nature of Victor’s training and the fallout that led the Drago family to lose so much after losing to Rocky years before. The returning Dolph Lundgren gets a lot across with few words while Florian Munteanu is incredibly intimidating throughout, towering above Adonis; you really do feel their bitterness. The film’s best efforts to develop the opposing side don’t quite reach their full potential however, as the Drago family isn’t given as much screen-time in-between the fight scenes.
Creed II has some issues with a predictable plot and a somewhat missed potential with its antagonists but it’s still an effective sequel that delivers one awesome bout for the ages. Whether or not you were there for the dramatic 1985 match-up, this is another enjoyable entry in the franchise.
Rating: 4/5 Stars (Great)