"Creed II" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Michael B. Jordan is now a superstar. From starting as a young actor in projects like "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights" to leading roles in Ryan Coogler's films "Fruitvale Station" and "Creed". Due to the success of playing antagonist Erik Killmonger in Coogler's "Black Panther", Jordan became a household name, which made "Creed II", directed by Steven Caple Jr. this time around, an instant huge blockbuster. Following in the footsteps of the first film, as well as the Rocky films that came before it, "Creed II" is an enjoyable boxing film that is a minor step-down from this film's predecessor.
The movie opens up on Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) making a huge career for himself, able to rack up seven wins after being defeated by Pretty Ricky Conlan in the first film. After defeating Danny Wheeler in the ring for the Heavyweight title, he is now on top of the world and is one of the most sought out fighters to square off in the ring. Adonis and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) together are shaping this new legacy for the young fighter, ready to find the next opponent for him to go up against.
What they don't know is that they attracted the attention of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the boxer who killed Apollo Creed in the ring many years ago. His son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu) is now rising through the ranks of the boxing world in Ukraine, and he wants a title shot against the younger Creed, hoping to fulfill his father's legacy. Against the wishes of his mentor, Adonis accepts the fight and is ready to fight some personal demons, as well as face the man who gruesomely killed his father in the ring before he was born.
In the first film, Adonis was just trying to make a name for himself and fight whoever he can to rise up in the ranks of the boxing world. When he fought Conlan, he didn't have to face any bad blood between him and the other boxer; it was simply just to make a name for himself and show that he can live up to his father's legacy. However, in this film, he is fueled by hatred for these men that changed his life. He not only wants to fight to retain his championship, but he is fighting to want to inflict pain on this man on the other side of the ring from him. Because of this, the movie had to convey those feelings on the screen, allowing him to really tap into emotional side of the character.
In terms of the acting performance on Jordan's part, I think he does a phenomenal job. You can see the grit and determination throughout this role, and it shows how comfortable he is now in this role. However, in terms of the script and the dialogue in the movie, I think it lacks the emotional depth it needed to fully go all the way. It seems like it is defining the outline of a story, without fully diving deep into the actual subtext that makes a plot like that great. You can feel the raw emotion there and what they wanted to do, but they shy away at every chance they get.
I think Stallone and Jordan are both still great in this film and have great chemistry once again. They are able to play off each other's strengths and banter off one another. However, this movie unfortunately doesn't focus on that too much. Sure, it's there, but the two actors spend a lot of time apart due to the decision that Adonis made to fight Drago. It seems like they're trying to distance the two characters, making the franchise and the film more focused on Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson), as well as their legacy. This would have worked if Stallone didn't return to the role, but when he is in the movie and shows up, you think they would use him to their full advantage.
Even though this movie does have its flaws, it is still very entertaining and has the charisma and charm from the first film. The boxing scenes are as great as the first one, and the two directors that worked on the films share similar visions. Also, the movie runs at a very nice pace and follows the same format that the first one did, which makes it seem very familiar and enjoyable for fans of the Rocky franchise.
Is this movie as good as the first Creed film? That's up to the viewer. For me, I think this film is inferior to its predecessor, but only slightly. "Creed II" is a terrific sequel, and easily sets up the franchise that will follow this character across numerous films hopefully. I was worried this movie wouldn't live up to the Coogler film, but I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see where the next films take Adonis and his family.