#REVIEW: “CREED II”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
The highlight of the original Rocky Franchise was arguably when Rocky Balboa fought Ivan Drago in 1985’s Rocky IV. More than a grudge match after Apollo Creed’s death, released at the height of the Cold War, the fight represented America’s superiority over Russia. Lest the Director at the time be thought of as too subtle, the climactic fight was preceded by a performance of Living in America by James Brown. Screenwriters Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor attempted to channel the memory of final showdown in their new Movie, Creed II.
In scenes reminiscent of Rocky’s old-school training techniques and killer left hooks, the movie quickly introduces the villains Victor and Ivan Drago (Florian Munteanu and Dolph Lundgen, the latter reprising his role from the 1985 movie) as hardworking men fighting their way to the top of the boxing world. On the other side of the world, with his trainer Rocky (Stallone) by his side, the newly-minted World Heavy Weight champion, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), is living a comfortable life with his fiancée, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). The true disparities between the two young fighters crystalizes when the Dragos see the famous statue of Rocky, and watch as fans recreate running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What follows is a series of fights and innumerable training montages as each boxer prepares enter the ring.
Unlike its 80s template, the two men are not trying to prove themselves on behalf of pollical beliefs but rather for their fathers’ honour. Drago wants his to restore his father’s name and glory whereas Creed wants to avenge his father’s death in the ring at Drago Senior’s hands. Despite a strong performance in the ring, Munteanu‘s Drago comes off more as a lost puppy seeking his mother’s love and father’s approval. Jordan, on the other hand, is naturally a more nuanced actor but his motivations often seem muddied behind a testosterone fueled ego.
Director Steven Caple Jr. tries hard to establish his voice in the Franchise which Ryan Coogler breathed fresh life into. Unfortunately, he is hindered with a dull Script and little Character Development. Creed’s entrance into the arena for his final fight with Drago attempts to echo the grandeur of Stallone and Brown but falls well short of the mark. The new entrance song speaks to the importance of family – a key theme in the Film – but lacks the spectacle of the original. In a movie that doesn’t try to hide its attempts to be Rocky III: The Second Coming, missteps like this are more noticeable.
The Cast is replete with Rocky callbacks, with standout Dolph Lundren bringing more depth to the Drago family than the boxer who portrays his son. In contrast, Stallone looks and sounds more like a caricature of himself every movie. While the seasoned veterans provided nostalgic fun, the real stars are the new generation of Dragos and Creeds. Jordan in particular wears his role comfortably, bringing new depths to the character he helped create in the first movie. The most lamentable fault of the Film is Thompson’s Bianca who starts out the Movie with a potentially interesting storyline which quickly devolves into her becoming a blank slate, supportive female.
If the Movie falls short in the Story department, it more than makes up for it with the fights. The battles between Drago and Creed are well-choreographed and worth the price of admission. While not the TKO of its predecessor, Creed II is a solid Sequel, which is sure to please fans.
Warner Bros. Canada opens Creed II on Wednesday, November 21, 2018.