creed ii spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Creed II.)

Step back into the ring with Creed II, a sequel to Ryan Coogler’s 2015 Rocky spin-off Creed. The main cast is back, but Coogler is not. The result? An exciting, entertaining sequel that never manages to match the strength of the first film. Much like Adonis Creed himself, the Creed franchise will need to forge its own legacy if it wants to continue.

Major spoilers follow.

creed ii creed and rocky

Step Back Into the Ring

It’s a testament to the power of movies that the Creed franchise has been able to take the events of absolutely ludicrous Rocky IV and work them into not one, but two emotionally earnest films. Rocky IV is a film laden with goofy montages, melodramatic nonsense, and an ending in which a boxing match essentially brings down the Iron Curtain. And yet, from this sequel, a new franchise has taken shape. One filled with genuinely touching, even downright powerful moments.

Creed was something of a minor miracle. The idea – the son of Apollo Creed trains with Rocky Balboa to follow in his father’s footsteps – could’ve easily gone south. But in Ryan Coogler’s skilled hands, it became a powerhouse. It certainly didn’t hurt that Coogler had the electric, charismatic Michael B. Jordan in the lead as Adonis Johnson. Aiding Jordan: Sylvester Stallone, giving perhaps the best performance of his entire career as the aging, sickly, punch-drunk Rocky Balboa, and Tessa Thompson, right before she launched into superstardom, as Adonis’ love interest, Bianca.

Like the original Rocky, Creed worked considerably well, and it wasn’t exactly crying out for a sequel. But Hollywood – and Sylvester Stallone – can never let a good thing go. Which brings us to Creed II, a sequel that brings back the main cast, but sadly loses Ryan Coogler – who was too busy making Black Panther to return for a rematch. In his place is Steven Caple, Jr., a young filmmaker with a few feature credits to his name – much like Coogler at the time the first Creed was made.

Does Caple, Jr. make for a worthy successor to Coogler? Is it worth your time to step back into the ring with Creed II? As a huge fan of the first Creed, I wish I could give you a resounding “Yes!” But it’s not that simple. Sadly, Creed II feels more like a Rocky sequel than a Creed sequel. That is to say – it’s often clumsy, and some of its punches never land.

Yet, it’s hard not to get swept up in the film’s energy. The main cast is once again a blessing, and in the end, you’d have to have a pretty cold heart to not find yourself swept up in the film’s climactic boxing match. One of the overarching themes of Creed II is stepping out of the shadow of the greatness that came before you. This is a lesson the Creed franchise needs to learn. You can only get so much mileage using the Rocky series as a springboard. If the Creed films are to continue, they need to create their own legacy. Things are mostly successful this time. Next time, we might not be so lucky.

creed ii drago

Legacy

Creed II picks up three years after the events of Creed. Adonis Creed (the former Adonis Johnson) is riding high, and with good reason: after his loss in the first film, he’s gone on to become the World Heavyweight Champion. He’s also decided to propose to Bianca – and she, in turn, says yes. Bianca’s hearing loss has increased since the first film, causing her to need hearing aids. Despite this, she’s bloomed as a successful singer. And of course, Adonis still has Rocky in his corner, literally and metaphorically.

Yes, life seems good for Adonis Creed. So why doesn’t he feel content? This is one of the film’s most realistic elements: the constant, nagging feeling of failure – even when you’re a success. Self-doubt blankets over Adonis, and he continues to live in the shadow of his famous father, Apollo Creed. Apollo’s presence still haunts Rocky in many ways – Rocky feels guilty for not throwing in the towel, and stopping the fight between Apollo and Russian super-boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo in the ring.

In the best thematic fashion, the past is about to come back to haunt Adonis and Rocky. In the Ukraine, Ivan Drago has fallen out of favor with the Russian government. He was once a super-star, but his defeat at the hands of Rocky Balboa has diminished his standing – while in America, and Philadelphia especially, Rocky is a hero. Drago has been training his son, the muscle-bound Viktor (Florian Munteanu), and the two have teamed with flamboyant boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) – a character who is set up to seem important at first, only to vanish from the movie later – to stage the ultimate grudge match: the son of Creed vs. the son of Drago.

Creed II follows the Rocky IV blueprint: it has two big matches, not one. The first has a defeat, the second, a triumph. After being challenged to fight, Adonis is ready and eager to step into the ring with Viktor – even though he soon learns that he and Bianca are going to have a baby. Rocky, however, is not okay with any of this. He fears for Adonis, and he doesn’t want to help him train. “You don’t think I can win?” Adonis asks, surprised and hurt. It’s not that, Rocky swears – but you can hear the uncertainty in his voice.

Adonis battles Viktor in the ring, and the results are brutal. Creed II doesn’t shy away from the carnage of two men beating the hell out of each other. The first match, in which we watch Adonis pummeled, is painful to watch. We can almost feel every blow. This is the result of Caple, Jr.’s direction, and Johnson and Munteanu’s physicality. The fight between the two men feels real. More than that, Munteanu, as the younger Drago, feels dangerous. He towers over Jordan’s Creed, and even though Jordan is in shockingly great shape (seriously; watching Jordan in this movie is going to make you want to hit the gym), Munteanu’s muscles seem chiseled from solid granite. Watching him obliterate Adonis in the ring isn’t pretty.

But Viktor breaks the rules – he lands a bunch when Adonis is already down – making the match null and void. Adonis gets to keep his Championship title – but he also ends up in the hospital, a broken man. He’s furious at Rocky for not being in his corner, and he’s furious with himself for losing to a member of the Drago family.

Continue Reading Creed II >>

Pages: 1 2Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net