Directed by: Steven Caple, Jr.
Produced by: Billy Charlton, Kevin Templeton, Charles Winkler, and Irwin Winkler
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, and Juel Taylor
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris, and Milo Ventimiglia
No matter what you ultimately think of Creed II, you must admit it’s a pretty gutsy move to make a film that’s not only a sequel to Creed, but to the magnum opus of the Rocky movie franchise, Rocky IV, as well. Carrying on the legacy of both films is a tough ask, but Creed II does a nice job overall. Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has finally won the heavyweight title, following in the footsteps of both his father, and his trainer, the legendary boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). There is no time to celebrate though, as an old enemy and a new challenger emerge from the shadows. Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) had his life fall into ruin following his loss to Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV. Now 30 years later he has tasked his son, Viktor, with restoring glory to the Drago name and exacting revenge against Balboa. With the help of a morally bankrupt promoter, the Drago’s goad Creed into giving Viktor a title shot. Creed, against the advice of pretty much everyone around him, accepts the challenge. As soon as the two step into the ring, the Rocky IV vibes intensify. Viktor Drago is a monster. An absolute unit. His last name could just as easily be Clegane. (If you don’t get that reference please go watch/read game of thrones after finishing this.) Michael B. Jordan is impressively jacked in the film and he looks like a kid about to fight an adult when standing toe to toe with Drago. It’s the exact same sense of awe and dread that you felt when Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa stood at the center of the ring against the seemingly invincible Ivan Drago some thirty years prior. Recreating those nostalgic moments is one of the things the film does best.
Creed 2 will be enjoyable to a wide audience, though fans of the original Rocky movies will probably have the richest experience. The film’s ties to Rocky IV are obvious, but it actually borrows elements from all across the Rocky saga, and being able to pick up on the little things is satisfying. However, being a super fan has a drawback as well. The plot is fairly predictable and doesn’t stray too far from the tried and true “Rocky” formula. So being overly familiar with the series may end up killing some of the suspense for you. Not that the film is all just punching and one-liners. There is a definite attempt to go beyond the ring. Probably more so than in any of the previous films. The focus isn’t solely on Creed and Drago fighting, but why they are fighting in the first place, and how the fight affects everyone connected to them as well. Actually, the couple of places that the film sort of bogs down and gets in its own way are due to these narratives being given just a hair too much screen time. Moments of pain and perseverance and triumph are central pillars to every film in the Rocky universe, but I think they are feelings best delivered non-verbally or in small and meaningful doses, preferably alongside some action. Stallone is a genius but the dialogue has never been his strongest suit. There are a few times the film wanders too far into the land of “tell me” and suffers for it, but it always finds its way back into “show me” territory before long. And the intense training scenes and fantastically choreographed fights are more than enough to make up for a couple of overly-written lulls. Overall, Creed 2 manages to advance the new franchise and pay ample respect to the originals. It isn’t perfect, but it’s worth a watch.
Deleted Scenes *Spoiler Potential*
-Rocky’s Eulogy for Spider Rico
In this scene, Rocky Balboa attends the funeral of an old boxing friend, Spider Rico. Rocky gets emotional as he stands and recalls his memories of the man, in front of a near-empty funeral parlor. The scene is painfully awkward, almost like watching a sad old person talk to themselves. The scene’s only real purpose seems to be to illustrate Rocky’s loneliness and drive home the point that outside of Adonis, he really doesn’t have anyone. I have no idea where this scene would have even remotely fit into the film and I am glad it was cut.
-Max’s Cheesesteak Restaurant
This scene expands upon the time that Adonis and Bianca spend at Max’s Cheesesteak restaurant. I was surprised by how much I liked this scene. A lot of the interaction we get between the two in the final cut is underpinned by stress or distance. Seeing them just sharing a meal and talking about life makes their relationship seem more relatable and real. And they aren’t just babbling, the things they discuss have substance, and some of Adonis’s words and actions later in the film actually make more sense after watching this scene. I wish they could have found the room to keep this one.
-Rocky Trains Kids
While Adonis is off training with Duke to face Drago, Rocky is teaching a boxing class to a bunch of kids. When the class starts asking about Creed, the pain Rocky feels to have had to walk away from training him is clear. That pain is shown pretty obviously in the film though even without this scene, and as conveying it seems to have been its only real purpose, it was a sensible cut.
After their second fight, Creed is on his way out of the venue when he walks past a locker room and see’s Viktor sitting alone, breathing heavily and staring despondently at the floor. Adonis limps over and gingerly sits down by Viktor. Both men look like they have been in a car accident. Adonis tells Viktor that he knows how he feels, and that they are both more than just one fight. Suddenly Ivan enters. Creed and Ivan have a stare down . Then, as Creed leaves, Rocky enters and he and Ivan have a stare down. This scene seems like it is trying to really hammer home this feeling of acknowledgment among the four and put a nice neat bow on top of the whole film. But I think it’s a bit heavy-handed in its approach and I much prefer the way that the final cut leaves things more ambiguous and allows the audience to make up their own minds.
The Women of Creed
This Featurette takes a closer look at the impacts that Bianca and Mary Anne Creed have on the film. Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad delve into why they approached their respective roles the way that they did and how their personal relationship off-screen played a hand. It also allows gives both director Steve Caple Jr. and Michael B. Jordan a chance to weigh in on just how important it was for the film to have a strong female presence and show the audience that a boxer and their partner are a team. When one fights, really they both do. Legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard even makes an appearance and echoes the sentiment from a real-world viewpoint.
Fathers and Sons
A breakdown of the various father and son dynamics at play in Creed II. Stallone reveals that the Shakespearean idea around “sins of the father” was his inspiration for the film. He wanted to explore just how much Viktor and Adonis were shaped by the decisions and mistakes of their famous fathers. A real-life father and son boxing team were brought it to get a real-world perspective on what it takes to succeed as a family in the business. The film does a great job at conveying the deep family concepts it sets out to and this featurette helps to illustrate that success.
Casting Viktor Drago
This featurette focuses on the challenges of casting Viktor Drago and the factors that ultimately led Sylvester Stallone to cast Florian Munteanu, a fighter with zero prior acting experience, in the role. You get a great sense of just how hard it was to find someone that could stack up to the idea of Ivan Drago as well as act and be able to perform the highly intricate and often dangerous choreography of the fights. Florian describes how surreal it was to have been chosen and how influential members of the cast and crew have been on his young acting career. I think Florian was perfect for the role and it was cool to see how the unlikely story of him becoming Viktor Drago transpired.
The Rocky Legacy
This must-watch featurette takes a look back at the complete history of the Rocky franchise and tells the story of how the saga transcended the silver screen and became a real-life inspiration for countless underdogs around the world. The entire Rocky series is covered but special attention is given to Rocky IV, and understandably so. Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren sit side by side and give fantastic commentary over their epic showdown from thirty years ago. If you were a fan of Rocky IV then hearing all the tidbits of behind the scenes goodness that the “Italian Stallion” and “Siberian Express” drop here is well worth your time.
Fight Through the Pain
A short and sweet look at the physical toll that filmingCreed II took on the actor’s bodies and minds. Michael B. Jordan and Florian Munteanu explain the training that was required to get in the excellent shape needed for the film. And touch on just how close to the edge you have to be in order to achieve a convincing product in the ring. The fight scenes in Creed II are phenomenal, and seeing all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making them makes them all the more impressive.