'Creed 2' Trailer Breakdown: Adonis Creed Wants To Rewrite History

Step back into the ring with Adonis Creed in the fantastic Creed II trailer. The follow-up to 2015's Creed has the son of Apollo Creed still grappling with the legacy of his deceased father. The stakes are higher, the tension has increased, and things look mighty dramatic for Adonis Creed.

Our Creed 2 trailer breakdown gloves up and examines this upcoming film.

Creed is one hell of a movie. Ryan Coogler breathed new life into the Rocky franchise, creating a personal, exciting drama. Based on the new trailerCreed II looks like it's going to be a winner as well. And yet...I'm cautious. Adding a sequel to Creed runs the risk of going the same poor direction the Rocky franchise went. Each subsequent Rocky sequel was worse than the last, and I would hate for Creed to end up the same way. Creed II is leaning into the Rocky legacy by bringing back Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the antagonist from Rocky IV. This makes sense – after all, Drago killed Adonis Creed's father, Apollo Creed. Still, I really don't want the Creed series to turn into Rocky 2.0. It deserves to be its own thing. All that said, this trailer makes the film look great.

The Creed II trailer launches on a bit of a bleak note. We see Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) get knocked down immediately. He awakes in a hospital, battered and bruised, with Tessa Thompson's Bianca by his side. "We got this," she tells him. "You hear me?"

From here, the stage is set. Adonis is still unsatisfied. One of the themes of Creed involved Adonis proving to the world, and to himself, that he was not a mistake. That he was more than just the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed. And yet, even though he felt he proved that in Creed (despite not winning the fight), he's still unfulfilled. This is a great approach to the story, because it's realistic. Often, people assume that just one thing – one win, one triumph – will solve all their internal problems. But life is more complicated by that. And the rush of vindication you feel in the moment eventually fades, and all those negative feelings come flooding back in.

"In the ring, you got rules," Rocky's narration tells us (and Adonis). "Outside, we got nothing." It's clear that Adonis isn't the only one feeling down. Our first shots of Rocky show him looking distraught and weary. Rocky was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Creed, which means he's still dealing with his disease. "Life hits you with all these cheap shots," Rocky says. "People like me...we live in the past." Yet it's clear from the trailer that Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) isn't the only person living in the past. The past haunts Adonis Creed as well.

We see Rocky sitting in the cemetery by the grave of his wife Adrian. Fun fact: this cemetery, Laurel Hill Cemetery, still has the fake tombstones of Adrian and her brother Paulie Pennino, on display. If you're in the Philadelphia region, you can just pop on into the cemetery and see them. They keep them off to the side, waiting to be used for future films. The Adrian tombstone was originally made for Rocky Balboa. When filming was done, Sylvester Stallone let them keep the tombstone – unaware that they would eventually need it again for Creed.

"You got people that need you now," Rocky says as the trailer cuts to a scene of Adonis and Bianca holding a baby. It's clear that this is meant to indicate that Adonis has a kid of his own now, although a part of me thinks this is a fake-out created via editing, and that this is someone else's child. But I could be wrong. Either way, Rocky tells Adonis, "You've got everything to lose."

"This guy's got nothing to lose!" Rocky tells Adonis on the streets of Philadelphia. The "guy" is Adonis' opponent – a character the trailer keeps secret until the very end. Even if you don't know who it is, it's clear that this is no simple boxing match for Adonis. He has a history with this mystery opponent. On top of that, Rocky is worried – really worried – about this fight. Adonis tells Rocky he doesn't have a choice, and Rocky counters that that's the same thing Adonis' father Apollo said right before he died. "This guy is dangerous," Rocky says of Adonis' mystery opponent. "You don't think I can beat him?" Adonis asks, and man oh man, the inflection in Michael B. Jordan's voice here sends chills down my spine. Jordan's delivery hammers home how hurt Adonis is at the thought of Rocky not believing in him. Rocky is Adonis' surrogate father, and he's standing here showing doubt in Adonis' abilities. He doesn't even answer Adonis' question. It stings.

From here, the big montage section of the trailer kicks in, with occasional dramatic beats. We see Adonis punching away in training, each punch timed to the beat of Kendrick Lamar's "LOYALTY." We also see Adonis starring up at a mural of his father – Apollo looming larger-than-life over his son. "I was afraid I couldn't live up to these expectations," Adonis says.

More training, giving way to a quiet moment between Adonis and Bianca.

"You don't think you got your validation?" she asks him. She wants him to be content; to not have to be so obsessed with his father's legacy. But that's easier said than done.

More montage training shots, including this instantly iconic moment of Adonis shadow-boxing underwater. This shot is clearly meant to invoke the famous Flip Schulke Life magazine photo of Muhammad Ali boxing underwater (see below). Also, intentional or not, the crosses painted onto the side of the swimming pool allude at religious iconography.

ali underwater

Adonis visits the grave of his father. "I want to rewrite history," he says.

He's telling this to his stepmother, Apollo's widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). She's having none of it, though. "Don't pretend this is about your father," she tells him. This cuts through the bullshit – Adonis may think he's about to step back into the ring to honor his father's legacy, but deep down, this is really about himself. This is all about trying to find a way to feel at home in this world he's built for himself; a world he built with his fists.

Adonis is emotionally (and physically) tortured – screaming into a heavy bag juxtaposed with a fist coming into frame and knocking the spit out of his mouth. This leads to more shots of training, and more shots of Adonis looking like he's coming unglued. This fight he's gearing up for is taking everything out of him, and more.

Adonis' mystery opponent finally makes an appearance. And in unsubtle fashion, he comes in flanked by flames and swathed in crimson, like some sort of wraith straight out of hell. "It may not seem like it now, but this more than just a fight," a voice says. I think it's supposed to be Adonis, but the voice sounds slightly different than Michal B. Jordan's. Perhaps it's just a trick due to editing.

At last, we see who the opponent is: DRAGO. That is, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago – killer of Adonis' father. I'm a little surprised this trailer didn't give us any shots of Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago, but I suppose doing so would give away this final stinger at the end of the trailer.

This is one damn effective trailer. Despite my misgivings, the footage here has me pumped. I still wish director Ryan Coogler had returned, but it looks like filmmaker Steven Caple Jr. has done a great job taking over the franchise.

Creed II opens on November 21, 2018.