Creed II Reviews
Safe to say, this is a great movie & one that lives up to the first Creed film,
on some aspects even being a better entry into the Rocky Anthology series.
Rocky 4 is a childhood favorite of mine; completely cheeseball in its 1980's execution but so bad that it is good. SO to take the lore of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Creed's father in that movie, and inject a next generation dynamic into it involving the two sons
Well, just take my money now.
Lundgren is great, as is Stallone. And thankfully they do not make this movie about them and their past. Instead, it is amazingly crafted and builds off the perfectly laid foundation of thirty years ago, allowing for the tension of the two lead characters (Jordan and newcomer Florian Munteanu) to be instantaneous.
This is about the new blood, and it shines through with perfectly placed subtle hints to the film that came before it.
That being said, Michael B. Jordan steals the show and this is a Creed movie.
Not a Rocky movie;
a Creed movie.
I truly believe this guy is one of the best actors working today, and Jordan, although brash and full of ego, portraying this champion displays signs of the broken young man, who never got the relationship with his father he yearns so much. In turn, this is both his guiding light but his downfall and it makes for a rollercoaster two hours & fifteen minutes.
For some one who has lost their father, it definitely pulled on the heart strings and made Creed very relatable.
No Rocky series movie would be complete without a kickass training montage and it provides one of the most brutal ones to watch. The boxing choreography is still vicious and damn near perfect, and the soundtrack perfectly placed at times to help convey the gravity of the situations at hand.
A perfect blend of nostalgia, mixed with a look into the psychology of two tortured young athletes, I can't say enough good things about Creed 2. Director Steven Caple Jr made a knockout (PUN INTENDED) of a movie and one of the best movies of the year.
Grade : A -
film is the sell on Creed being a "heavyweight", let alone a heavyweight champion. The guy is at most 190 lbs fighting a guy who's around 265, that's a bit reaching. Other than that, great movie
In Rocky IV, former WBC Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) was killed in the ring during an exhibition bout against Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Determined to avenge the loss of his best friend, reigning champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) travelled to Moscow, where he not only defeated Drago, he also got the Soviet crowd on his side. 33 years later, Ivan's son, Viktor (the man-mountain that is Florian Munteanu), is training as a professional boxer in Ukraine, under the watchful eye of promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby). Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, three years after his professional debut against "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), Apollo's son, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), is preparing for a bout against the champion, Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler (Andre Ward). Upon winning the title, Adonis proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), who says yes. Life seems perfect. That is until Viktor and Ivan head to the US and issue a very public challenge to Adonis. Meanwhile, Ivan tells Rocky, who is in Adonis's corner, that the fight is a way to regain honour for the Drago name, explaining that after their bout 33 years ago, he lost everything, including his wife, Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), who left him shortly after Viktor's birth. Spurred on by Marcelle, and seeing an opportunity to avenge his father's death, Adonis plans to take the fight, but is warned against doing so by Rocky. When Adonis insists, Rocky says he can no longer train him. Adonis and Bianca move to Los Angeles so she can pursue her singing career, moving into a luxury apartment near Apollo's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rash?d). To replace Rocky, Adonis recruits Tony "Little Duke" Evers (Wood Harris), Wheeler's former trainer, and son of Tony "Duke" Evers (Tony Burton), who trained both Apollo and Rocky in the past. Feeling betrayed by Rocky, and finding it difficult to adjust to the recent changes in his life, including the fact that Bianca is pregnant, Adonis's preparations for the bout are not what they should be, whilst Ivan makes sure to push Viktor as hard as he possibly can.
What's perhaps most surprising about Creed II is that not only is it a sequel to Creed, it's also a sequel to one of the most ridiculous films of all time, and one which certainly didn't cry out for a continuation of the narrative, Rocky IV. Creed recast the Rocky template for a modern audience, setting it in a social-realist African-American milieu and relegating Rocky to a supporting player. Rocky IV, by contrast, was the movie wherein the franchise abandoned all semblance of realism; the film in which Rocky himself, the working-class everyman, became a superhero (he even had a talking robot sidekick), travelling to the Soviet Union, defeating Communism, and winning the Cold War by preaching glasnost to the Soviet people (two years before Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech). It's a movie so ridiculous that the poster quite literally tells you how it ends! It also features Sylvester Stallone all but sexually abusing Sergei Eisenstein's theories of montage. The first example of such (Rocky driving pensively into the night) is a montage of Rocky thinking about montages, and the second (Rocky training by cutting down trees and running atop mountains) is probably the most 80s thing to ever exist. The film is, in fact, so preposterous, far-fetched, and ludicrous that if you're unable to have fun watching it, you may as well just stop watching movies.
From an aesthetic point of view, Creed II is largely unremarkable (there's certainly nothing as epic as the single-shot fight from the first film), but one aspect that did stand out is the sound. As the first film established, Bianca is losing her hearing, something which is manifested in the aural design of Creed II several times. At the start of the film, for example, as Bianca walks through the backstage area prior to the title fight, the sound of the crowd is soft and distanced until she puts in her hearing aid. Later, when Creed is training in a swimming pool, Bianca and Mary Anne are talking at another location, with their conversation carrying over his scenes. However, every time he goes below the water, the sound of their voices dulls as if it were diegetic. When Adonis is knocked down during his bout with Viktor, all sound is pulled from the film, only returning when he locks eyes with Bianca in the crowd. Even Adonis's marriage proposal involves her hearing aid. This is all thematic, of course, insofar as they are worried their child may inherit her hereditary hearing loss.
Thematically, legacy is a huge issue in Creed II, particularly as it relates to fathers and sons - Apollo and Adonis, Ivan and Viktor, Duke and Little Duke. Rocky himself is something of a surrogate father to Adonis, and is estranged from his own son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia, who played the role in Rocky Balboa), and a grandson he has never met. Whilst Creed saw Adonis use boxing as a way to symbolically bond with a father he never knew, Creed II is more concerned with the emotionally fraught terrain that can result when fathers try to live vicariously through their sons, and when sons must live with their father's failures. Everything Viktor does, for example, is an attempt to earn Ivan's approval, whilst Ivan sees Viktor as the only way to atone for what happened to him after losing to Rocky.
Indeed, the depiction of the Dragos in general is especially interesting, and is both one of the best aspects of the film, and simultaneously one of the most problematic. In Rocky IV, Ivan was a cartoon villain, a badly written, pseudo-xenophobic hyperbole of what some Americans seemed to think Soviets were like. He was barely one-dimensional. In Creed II, he's still relatively thin as a character, but Lundgren is given enough room to portray him as essentially broken, living on nothing but bitterness, resentment, and shame. When he meets up with Rocky in the latter's restaurant, promising, "my son will break your boy", he comes across as more pathetic than anything else, a million miles from the almost automaton-like warrior of three decades prior. When Ivan mentions their fight, Rocky tries to dismiss it, "that's like a million years ago." Ivan, however, replies, "but just yesterday to me." One gets the impression that from the moment of his loss he's been waiting for this, seeing his son as nothing more than the delivery method of his vengeance. Ivan has raised Viktor in pure hate, teaching him that the only thing that matters is winning, but you can see in every move that Viktor is far more concerned with earning his father's respect - winning as an end unto itself means relatively little to him. There's a lot of pathos in that, and both Lundgren and Munteanu act the hell out of the complex dynamic. Working with Stallone for the fifth time, Lundgren's understated and subtle performance is easily the best of his career, and the best in the film, with the quietness that spoke to lack of interiority in the previous film, here suggesting a deeply felt pain.
The training montages also do something very interesting in respect to Viktor. Showing him jogging through economically impoverished communities, stacking crates, lugging around bags of cement, and working with less than state-of-the-art equipment, the parallel is not to Ivan, who trained with hi-tech gizmos and gadgets in Rocky IV, but to Rocky's training in the original film. Indeed, whilst Adonis lives in a luxury apartment, Viktor and Ivan live in a dingy bedsit in Ukraine that recalls Rocky's original digs in Philadelphia.
The problem with all of this is that the Drago's story is by far the most compelling one in the film. One should not come away from a film named Creed II wishing there had been less Creed and more of the antagonists. Although Creed, Bianca, and Rocky all get a little character development, the most interesting story arc is that of Ivan. Set against the complex and fascinating Drago family drama, Creed and Bianca's story is pretty insipid, and is essentially a rehash of Rocky's relationship with Adrian (Talia Shire) in Rocky II. The most dramatic and heartfelt moments of the film involve Ivan and Viktor, and the long middle section where Creed falls into a depression seems to go on forever; the whole time we were watching him fall apart, I was yearning to get back to the Dragos.
And this feeds into the film's most egregious problems - its rigid adhesion to the Rocky template, and the concomitant predictability. Chances are that everything you think might happen in Creed II does, as the film makes no attempt whatsoever to be original. Aside from the Drago subplot, there is nothing here that we haven't seen before. Granted, the Rocky franchise has always tended to wear its predictability like a badge of honour, and the core template does undoubtedly work. But even when a film adheres to that template, one shouldn't be able to predict each narrative beat with near perfect accuracy. Even Rocky V, as awful as it was, tried something new, culminating with a street fight rather than an in-ring bout. It didn't even remotely work, but the thinking behind it was admirable. Aside from two unexpected cameos, Creed II never once caught me off-guard, doing nothing original, unexpected, or in any way daring. And because of that, for large portions of the runtime, particularly the middle section, the film is interminably boring.
Even the boxing itself is not especially well-done. Kramer Morgenthau's cinematography is fine, but nothing special, and pales in comparison to Maryse Alberti's work in the first film. Similarly, Caple Jr.'s direction is efficient, but not in the same ballpark as Coogler's. Aside from Raging Bull and Ali, both visually unique in their own ways, Creed is arguably the most technically proficient boxing movie in terms of in-ring competition. Creed II, however, shoots all the fights very conventionally, holding a fairly uniform three-quarters distance from the actors, with Caple Jr.'s only trick seeming to be slow-motion, which he grossly over-uses. This has the effect of making the fights seem repetitive, even when the story being told by the fighting action is different (which isn't helped by the fact that Ivan tells Viktor to "break him" about 150 times).
While we're on the subject of the boxing itself, the culminating fight between Adonis and Viktor is beyond ridiculous, even for this franchise. The boxing in Rocky films has never been even remotely realistic, with a laughable number of haymakers landing cleanly in every round of every fight, but Creed II takes this almost to the point of parody. In the recent Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury fight, the total power punches landed was 31-38 from 182-104 thrown (17%-36.5%), whilst overall punches was 71-84 from 430-327 (16.5%-25.7%). These numbers are a little below the heavyweight average (which is 15 punches per round), but they're not especially unusual. In one round towards the end of Creed II, I counted Creed landing 19 power punches to Drago's 12. That's just ridiculous, to the point where it completely takes you out of the film. There's also an unintentionally hilarious moment when Adonis is knocked down, and Little Duke, apparently auditioning as the worst corner man in boxing history, looks out to Bianca in the crowd and shrugs!
Insanely, even "Gonna Fly Now", that most fundamental aspect of all Rocky movies (except the one it wasn't used in) is underwhelming; whereas the first film used it to carry the audience to the emotional highpoint of the film, combining Ludwig G÷ransson's interpolation of Bill Conti's legendary score, with the on-screen action, and Rocky screaming, "You're a Creed" as a way to inspire Adonis off the canvas, Creed II just kind of randomly drops it into the mix without a whole lot of justification or thematic relevance.
Although there are some laudable elements here, Creed II is a disappointment in almost every way, from the dull and soulless domestic scenes to a dÚnouement that goes beyond suspension-of-disbelief, with not a hint of unpredictability. By essentially deconstructing the Rocky template, Creed found its way to unexpected thematic depths, recasting the great-white-hope subtext into a narrative about a struggling black man, whilst also examining notions of masculinity in the 21st century, and having Rocky himself face his own mortality. Creed II exists entirely on the surface. Sure, the Rocky melodrama is there, the Rocky fights are there, the Stallone one-liners are there, but with a narrative focused almost entirely on the less interesting characters, this has to go down as a missed opportunity. Apart from the Drago subplot, everything is by-the-numbers. Yes, we care about these characters, but that's primarily because of the previous films, and whereas Creed forged a path very much its own, Creed II returns us to the safety of the overly familiar.
CreedII reminds me of leftovers, everything is cold, nothing seemed fresh and the characters were in need of something to make them catch the greatness of the 1st movie. Michael B. Jordon looks the part but doesn't look like a Heavyweight nor does this movie. It is a shadow boxing the real opponent is the acting and script.
Sylvester Stallone, seemed to phone this one in and the constant cliches grew tiresome. I never got the same feeling about the birth of Adonis' kid like I did in the Rocky movies. I did get the love relationship with Creed though. However, I found her voice to be distracting and not very good.
My final judges decision is 3 out of 10 rounds this movie was for me. What a shame. Hopefully the Rocky series would have ended with his mentioning and Apollo Creeds kid chance at the championship in Creed I. There were some solid performances like Felicia Rashad, Ivan Drago played by Dolph Lundgren and the son played by Florian Munteanu as Vitor Drago. So give it a try but this humble viewer gives it a 2 out of 5 and not the knockout the first Creed was. Wait for video for this one