The story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) continues in director Steven Caple’s phenomenal sequel Creed II from Warner Bros. Pictures. Three years after shocking the world with his ability to go the distance with world light heavyweight champion “Pretty Ricky” Conlan, Adonis is on top of the world. Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, (Sylvester Stallone) Adonis claims the crown of world heavyweight champion, and his relationship with aspiring musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is flourishing.
Adonis has no idea that on the other side of the world Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) the man, who killed his father, has spent years training his offspring Viktor (Florian Munteanu) in the art of boxing. Ivan blames Rocky for ruining his life and wants revenge. Drago who not only lost his wife Ludmila (Brigitte Nielsen), he also had to leave his home country. Shady boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) sees the chance to make some serious money by having Viktor and Adonis fight. While his trainer Rocky and stepmother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) are against the fight, Adonis wants to take the match.
Michael B. Jordan once again shows why he is one of the best young actors in Hollywood. While the sequel does follow a standard redemption and underdog template, Jordan sells it so well you will not even notice. As Creed, Jordan delivers his lines with a confident demeanor, and when trains for his big fight, you feel the physical pain he is enduring. Creed’s big training montage, which takes place in the desert, is easily my favorite training montage in a Rocky franchise since the fourth film.
The key strength of Creed II is in the film’s screenplay written by Stallone and Juel Taylor. Watching the sequel, I was able to sympathize with the Drago’s as well as Adonis. Ivan wants his to reclaim his glory through his son, while Adonis wants to live up to his namesake. The combination of legacy and regret comes across naturally in the film. Rocky still feels guilty for his role in Apollo’s death, which is why he does not want Adonis to fight Viktor.
When Rocky comes face to face with Ivan, it is a moment where we feel the regrets of both men. Legacy comes into play in Creed II in many ways, with one of my favorites being the expansion of the character Little Duke (Wood Harris) from Creed, Little Duke’s father was a trainer to Adonis’s dad Apollo, so it was great to see the legacy continue. There is also a quick cameo from Rocky’s son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia).
The screenplay also makes the wise choice to give an arc to Bianca. If you recall from Creed, Bianca had some hearing loss. In the sequel, she is on the verge of becoming deaf, just as she is about to breakthrough in the music industry. Watching the chemistry between Adonis and Bianca, makes we wonder if the two actors who portray them, were ever a couple in real life as their chemistry is that natural.
Steven Caple Jr takes over directorial duties for Ryan Coogler, and it shows in the film. While Caple Jr. does not capture the intensity in the boxing matches that Coogler did in the first film, he brings out the best in the actors. Caple Jr. who only had one previous feature credit is sure to get more offers after Creed II.
More than just a formulaic crowd-pleasing boxing movie, Creed II succeeds as a film with the central theme of carving out one’s legacy. In the event we get a third Creed film, I look forward to it, and if we do not then Creed II is the perfect ending to the series.
FINAL GRADE: A