Dateworthy? “Creed II”
Is “Creed II” worth a date night? Yes . . . mostly.
The film is a sequel to 2015’s terrific “Rocky” spin-off. Viewers find the young boxing champion facing off against the boxer son of the man who killed his father in “Rocky IV”: Russian tough-man Ivan Drago. The story isn’t quite as fresh as “Creed” and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky doesn’t have as much to do. But star Michael B. Jordan is still magnetic. Plus, the boxing matches are excitingly filmed and the underlying backstories of romance and family ties are touching.
Sylvester Stallone has six “Rocky” movies, four “Rambo” films and three “Expendables” films under his belt. Clearly, he knows how to create characters and story lines that moviegoers around the planet want to revisit over and over again. But not all these sequels have been artistic triumphs with great reviews. However, “Creed” inspired Stallone to an Oscar-nominated performance. It also brought in a fresh viewpoint from co-writer/director Ryan Coogler, who has since gone on to make “Black Panther.”
That film followed retired boxing legend Rocky Balboa as he agreed to train the newly discovered son of his original rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed. Played by rising star Michael B. Jordan, the young Adonis Creed was a terrific breakthrough role of both substance and charisma.
“Creed II” lacks freshness, but still has heart
“Creed II” follows the new world champion Adonis. He defies Rocky’s orders and takes on the brutal son of Rocky’s 1980s rival Ivan Drago. Why take on such a match? In order to avenge his father Apollo Creed’s death at Ivan’s hands in “Rocky IV.”
Adonis Creed has proven himself an able young champion in the first “Creed” movie. Now he must face a new challenger or risk forfeiting his championship belt. Meanwhile, a shady promoter traveled to Russia to watch Ivan Drago’s son Viktor brutally knock out opponents in under-the-radar matches.
The promoter returns to the United States and taunts Adonis with the chance to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Viktor’s father Ivan. He then brings Ivan and Viktor to Philadelphia to confront Rocky and further push the fight to happen. Rocky is afraid that Adonis could wind up brutally beaten or killed the way his father was. All of this comes right at the time Adonis is seeking to propose to his girlfriend, Bianca.
Adonis decides to get in the ring and is indeed beaten to a pulp. This results in a hospital stay with broken ribs and bleeding kidneys. Yet since Viktor was disqualified from winning the match on a technicality, he demands a rematch on his own Russian turf. This time, Adonis decides to take the match on Rocky’s terms. He learns to train from scratch, with an intense new series of challenges far beyond what he’s ever encountered.
“Creed II” is a solid movie. It should please the many fans of the “Rocky” series and its own predecessor, “Creed.” However, it lacks the passion of the first “Creed.” That passion came largely from having Rocky battling to stay alive while suffering through cancer. But since Rocky is now largely healthy again, the film doesn’t have as compelling of a plot line.
A baby on the way provides emotional pull
Adonis’ relationship with his girlfriend turned fiance Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is handled nicely. She expresses concern for his well-being. Plus, the stakes are higher than before for him to survive without much damage since they are now awaiting the birth of a child.
Too much of the internal conflict Adonis deals with seems old hat. Director Steven Caple, Jr. doesn’t make the fight scenes truly exciting until the terrific final match. The training sequences in which Rocky sticks Adonis with inventive means of getting in shape is more interesting than fun to watch, a flaw compared to the myriad intriguing ways Rocky used throughout his own series of movies.
“Creed II” has some strongly affecting scenes about family reconciliation and redemption, especially towards the end. It treats its characters with respect and intelligence, even if the story line is repetitive. Dolph Lundgren steals the show as an older, sadder Ivan Drago, desperate for one last chance at success after his “Rocky IV” loss to Rocky cost him his lavish lifestyle and even his marriage.
Ultimately, “Creed II” is entertaining enough for really strong fans of the “Rocky” and “Creed” movies to see in the theater. The movie is a tough fighter but not a legendary champion among films.
Story line: 7
Overall: 8.25 out of 10
Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.