Isaiah Simeon ‘22 / Emertainment Monthly Web Editor
Who would have guessed that 43 years after the release of 1976’s Rocky, the series would be alive and well – still exploring new stories, yet always featuring more than its share of punchouts? Creed II follows newly crowned heavyweight champion Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as he faces off against his toughest opponent yet, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the man who killed his father, Apollo.
Creed II marks the eighth film in the Rocky/Creed franchise, which is in desperate need of a snappier title should it continue, which it should. The essential precursors to this film are 1985’s enjoyable yet over-the-top Rocky IV and 2015’s Creed, which breathed life into the dormant franchise. This is a difficult pair of movies to draw influence from in a single film. Rocky IV is a relic of its red scare era theatrical release. It is beloved, but not because of its merit. It’s fun to watch in retrospect on account of its absurdity. Meanwhile, Creed is a well-rounded, captivating film that stands on its own.
And yet, Creed II captures the essence of both of these films. The credit for this feat goes to the excellent handling of the characters in this film. It is far too common for movie sequels to wash out the characters, reducing them down to a singular trait that defines them. Creed II sidesteps this archetype, not only building on core characters but also constructing new side of previously one-note figures. Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is the most notable of these figures. Creed II manages to transform a man that was the embodiment of evil 30 years ago into a flawed, misguided father who warrants sympathy.
The gel of Creed II is its spectacular sound editing of the fight sequences. Punches connect with visceral thuds that never fail to elicit a wince from the audience. Body shots ring with the sound of ribs cracking. Topping the climatic scenes off is the Rocky theme score, as boisterous as it is iconic, beautifully incorporated into the action without a trace of nostalgia-baiting.
Aside from the moments of peak adrenaline, the fights of Creed II are largely forgettable and formulaic. Creed II features three fights, spread out fairly equally throughout the film. All three bouts end the expected way, although that does not make the experience any less enjoyable. If predictability is an issue for certain viewers, the odds they have made it this far into the Rocky/Creed saga is low.
A few times throughout the film’s runtime of a little over two hours, Creed II touched on very real themes of the negative effects of the sport. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has apparent brain damage, a theme introduced in 1990’s Rocky V, as a result of his time in the ring with Ivan. Adonis suffers a brutal beating in the film, leaving him broken (but still incredibly jacked).
This theme loses steam near the end when it’s time for the characters to stop talking and start punching. It’s not fair to discredit Creed II for not fully exploring this theme because, as accurate and real this issue it, it’s not what the people are there to see, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Creed II is a spectacular boxing movie with a lot more to offer than a few bloody ring matches, although make no mistake, those are abundant.
Overall Grade: A
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