“Rocky IV” delivered one of the infamous franchise’s most devastating moments — when the infamous Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) was beaten to death by the monstrous Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in the ring. Decades later, the sequel to the 2015 hit “Creed,” centers around this critical plot point as the sons of the two boxers go head to head in the match of the century. The stakes are not only high for the characters but the franchise’s new director, Steven Caple, Jr., who is tasked with both directing a successful follow up to Ryan Coogler’s film, as well as maintaining the legacy of one of the most successful earlier “Rocky” films.
“Creed II” is directed by Steven Caple Jr. and stars A-list actor Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, Tessa Thompson plays his newly engaged finance Bianca, Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago and old timer’s Sylvester Stallone as the legendary Rocky Balboa and Lundgren, of course, as the notorious Ivan Drago.
There are a lot of conceptual parts of the film that elevate it from being an ordinary sports film; a notable aspect being each character’s unique path to redemption. But, unlike the original “Creed,” this film still suffers from pitfalls common to “Rocky” movies, such as going about its entertaining plot in an utterly predictable nature — perhaps because the film was also co-written by Stallone himself.
The greatest highlights of “Creed II” are the visceral boxing sequences and intense cinematography. There is one key scene where Adonis is training in the desert. The shots and the score send pumps of adrenaline through the viewer. For all its predictability, “Creed II” still managed to be as engaging as any other “Rocky” movie. There are certain shots in the ring that feel too real to be choreographed, and even the slow motion punches — like making a splash of spit fly out of someone’s mouth upon impact — are breathtaking.
Following “Creed” and “Black Panther,” Jordan has maintained his chiseled physique, and his acting in this film is as effortless and magnetic as ever. Lundgren’s portrayal of Drago is another unexpected highlight of the film. Even though he is technically the villain, the pain and national humiliation he is trying to overcome are made emotionally poignant to the audience.
Despite its predictability, “Creed II” is a solid boxing movie which explores thought-provoking themes like redemption and father-son relationships. The movie, ultimately, leaves you feeling inspired, much like other “Rocky” films. So maybe you won’t be watching it for the cinematic art, but there’s something very powerful about nostalgia.
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