Creed 2 Reviews Round-Up

Are you ready to step back into the ring?

Next week, one of the many new releases trying to get audiences into theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will be Creed II. The sequel to the surprisingly great Rocky spin-off is bringing in another piece of the franchise’s legacy by bringing back Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundrgren), this time managing his boxer son Viktor Drago (played by real fighter Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu) as he prepares for a match with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). There’s no better time to say “This time, it’s personal,” since Ivan Drago is the one responsible for the death of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in Rocky IV, and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) isn’t exactly thrilled to see him back near a boxing ring again.

So how does Creed II measure up to its predecessor? Well, it sounds like the sequel suffers from dipping too much back into the Rocky franchise by providing fan service. But director Steven Caple Jr. has still delivered a solid follow-up that audiences will enjoy. Find out more in our Creed 2 reviews round-up below.

Our own Chris Evangelista doesn’t have a full review, but he did post a reaction to Twitter:

/Film’s Ben Pearson also weighed in on Twitter:

Our old pal Angie Han at Mashable writes in her review:

“When Creed II is in the thick of it, it mostly works. It’s not quite as smart as Creed, or quite as beautiful, and it doesn’t have as much depth or nuance or texture. But it’s got enough to deliver something satisfying and sweet. Provided, anyway, that you’re already invested in this story from the first Creed and the other Rocky movies.

By the time Creed II enters its climax, we’re all in, even if we’re still not entirely sure how we got here. Like its hero, this film’s true strength lies in its heart—it has so much of it, it extends sympathy even to its villains.

But Creed II could stand to learn another lesson from Adonis, as well: It really and truly is time for this franchise to move beyond its legacy, and start making a name of its own.”

Jesse Hassenger at The AV Club shares similar sentiments:

“None of this is quite as fresh as Creed, one of the best-crafted franchise extensions in recent memory. Caple maintains that film’s grounded approach, but he uses more traditional signifiers of grit: a handheld camera, with plenty of color-drained blue and gray compositions, and less of Coogler’s thrilling showmanship. Still, there are more arresting images than in the many Stallone-helmed installments, particularly with the following shots Caple seems to love, tracking his characters as they head toward the ring for a match or into the cold early-morning air for a run.

The quiet, graceful moments are vastly preferable to the torrent of ridiculous expositional sportscasting narration that accompanies every fight scene, explaining and re-explaining the extremely familiar stakes ad nauseam. (It was a minor problem in the final bout of Creed that has spread to every fight scene of the sequel.) Ultimately, Creed II feels a little muffled by its workmanlike touches, especially when it gets in the ring. Just as Rocky was too low-key and charming to spawn a fully worthy successor for several decades, Creed so elevates its franchise roots that even a pretty good sequel can’t land with the same impact.”

Tom Jorgensen at IGN was a little disappointed with how Creed II hangs on to the past:

“Just like Adonis himself, director Ryan Coogler proved with Creed that this new iteration of the Rocky franchise could stand on its own and forge its own legacy. Creed II, however, can’t seem to let the past go, abandoning the exciting new path blazed by Coogler in favor of evoking what’s come before, with undeniably diminished results. The return of Ivan Drago and the introduction of his son Viktor feels mishandled and undercooked. The only thing driving the story forward is the strength of Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Sylvester Stallone’s performances, but they’re nearly lost in a sea of missed opportunities. Die-hard fans of the franchise will probably enjoy this grudge match, but for those that discovered it through the 2015 film and go in expecting something as just weighty, well, you’ve got a ten count to beat and something tells me the disappointment of seeing all the flashes of what this movie could’ve been is going to keep you on the mat.”

Chris Nashawaty at Entertainment Weekly has nice things to say, but also notes its shortcomings:

“While not quite as great as the first film showcasing Jordan’s Adonis, The Land director Steven J. Caple Jr. has made a rousing tale about fathers and sons, guilt and redemption, loneliness and family – just the sort of big, sledgehammer-subtle themes that have always propelled the series.

Creed II slavishly follows the sentimental-palooka Rocky template as if it were a sacred text. Still, it doesn’t make those old rope-a-dope tropes any less effective.”

Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter hits a little harder at Creed II for not being as good as Creed:

“As Rocky II was to Rocky, so is Creed II to its powerhouse progenitor — that is, a pale shadow of its daddy. Slack and unexciting compared to Ryan Coogler’s blisteringly good 2015 reconception of a 1970s icon for modern audiences, this follow-up is an undeniable disappointment in nearly every way, from its dreary homefront interludes to a climactic boxing match that feels far-fetched in the extreme. Nothing here has been freshly thought out, nor is there a drop of surprise as to the story’s trajectory, forcing the viewer to tolerate conventional emotional beats and stale plot contrivances. All the same, Creed is a brand just as Rocky was, so it will succeed, at least up to a point.”

Benjamin Lee over at The Guardian seems to be the most high on the sequel:

“While it’s not quite the showstopper that its predecessor was, Creed II is still another knockout piece of entertainment. There’s a keen awareness of what made Creed work so well without it feeling like a lethargic rehash.

Given the never-ending production line of lazy inferior sequels, it’s such a joy to encounter one that feels necessary. Elevated by a central trio of winning performances and a director who provides equal weight to drama in and out of the ring, Creed II deserves to be cheered.”

Eric Kohn at IndieWire echoes a lot of the impressions we’ve gotten from other critics:

“While “Creed II” doesn’t suffer from as much sequel-itis as other “Rocky” forebears, the virus of redundancy lingers.

Even so, it’s fascinating to watch this series make the case for its existence. The closing moments feature a hilarious cameo that suggests another chapter around the corner as the “Rocky” EU continues its expansion, and there’s enough substance in “Creed II” to justify its trajectory. We know what to expect from these stories, but both “Creed” and its sequel invite us to forget — so we can rediscover the thrill all over again.”

Todd Gilchrist over at Moviefone wishes all sequels were as good as Creed II, but does note some issues:

“Creed II” elevates the literal and metaphorical challenges of following up improbable success to something meaningful and eventually transcendent of the formulas that it relies upon.

If the film falls short of its predecessor, it’s because the dramatic scenes are so good, and the journeys taken outside of the ring are so vivid, that the fights feel almost like an afterthought, or a concession to the demands of the series. Caple’s technique doesn’t quite feel as effortless or elegant as Ryan Coogler’s did on “Creed,” which may account both for the sequel’s over-modulated sound design — every punch lands with an ear-shattering thud — and its overuse of ringside commentators.”

Owen Gleiberman at Variety wishes Creed II did a little more to stand out from its predecessors:

“Maybe because Coogler opted out of this one (he serves as an executive producer, but it was directed by the relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr.), and the script was co-written by Sylvester Stallone (with Juel Taylor), “Creed II,” far more than the first film, feels like it’s drawing heavily on a 40-year-old franchise.

Taken on its own terms, the movie is a rousing and effective sequel, with a couple of surprise punches and, mostly, a lot of smooth feints and jabs you’ve seen before. But if you compare it to, say, the second and third “Rocky” sequels, with its larger-than-life villains (Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago), what’s noticeable about “Creed II” is that it never quite comes up with a new character or situation that attains an iconic status all its own.”

Mike Ryan at Uproxx found a lot of heart, even outside of the ring:

“There’s a lot going on in Creed II, more than a movie featuring Ivan Drago really ever needed to have. But at its core, Creed II is about family. It’s about Adonis Creed’s relationship with Bianca and his continuing reconciliation with Apollo. It’s about Ivan Drago and his son, and where the line is drawn when it comes to personal redemption. And it’s about Rocky, struggling with the very few people he has left who he considers “family.” For a movie that features a dramatic fight between people with the last name Creed and Drago, it’s strangely sad and reflective.”

Finally, Sam Adams over at Slate is probably the harshest on Creed II:

Creed interrogated the Rocky series, including the great-white-hope subtext of the originals, from the ground up, but Creed II just skims along the surface. Instead of Maryse Alberti’s meticulously choreographed long takes, we get Kramer Morgenthau’s phoned-in cinematography, including a scene in the kitchen of Adonis’ mother (Phylicia Rashad) that’s one of the most indifferently shot things I’ve ever seen in a major studio movie. The whole film is egregiously lazy, committing unforced errors like having a boxing commentator say Adonis, the son of a former heavyweight champion, has “the most unlikely beginnings” for a boxing champion. The movie occasionally works in its own crude way, and there’s enough residual feeling left in Jordan’s and Thompson’s performances to stir even the skeptical heart. But it’s depressing that after Creed’s success, Creed II feels like it’s just a step above a straight-to-video knockoff, designed to get a little more from the first movie’s audience but not to increase it.”

***

All in all, it sounds like Creed II is a sequel that holds its own, even if it doesn’t match up to the greatness of the first spin-off. Perhaps that’s because Sylvester Stallone is back to writing here. But in the end, Creed II still gives audiences something to root for, inside and outside of the ring, and Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson continue to make this franchise more compelling than the rest of the Rocky sequels.

Creed II hits theaters on November 21, 2018.

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