To be honest, it is no surprise that almost every major critic of the current film industry has claimed at least once that Hollywood has completely run out of ideas, choosing to only make sequels, spin-offs and reboots to franchises that have arguably lost their relevance a long time ago.
With that said, however, various directors have certainly tried to go beyond that common assumption. Director Ryan Coogler succeeded in doing so with 2015’s “Creed,” which brought the once iconic “Rocky” franchise back to life by focusing on Rocky Balboa himself (Sylvester Stallone) training Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) to become a champion boxer like his father.
Now three years later, Adonis’ story continues with “Creed II,” only this time, Coogler is not back in the director’s chair (he chose to direct this year’s box-office phenomenon “Black Panther” instead), as Steven Caple Jr. takes the reins after helming the 2016 indie drama “The Land.”
Directing a highly anticipated sequel to a critically acclaimed “soft reboot,” as well as one that did the original franchise justice, is anything but an easy task. Thankfully, Caple Jr. and the screenwriters (with Stallone even serving as one of them) managed to craft a follow-up worthy of its predecessor.
Jordan and Stallone both return as Creed and Balboa. Creed, several years after the events of the first film, has become the World Heavyweight champion in the world of boxing. That feeling of success, however, comes to a halt when Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) decides to have his son Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) challenge Adonis in the ring.
Ivan was a former Russian boxer for the Soviet Union that was responsible for the death of Apollo Creed in 1985’s “Rocky IV.” In order to defend his title, Adonis has no other choice but to accept this dangerous proposal, ultimately putting his own physical and emotional health, his relationship with his now-fiancée Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and his family name on the line as a result.
Despite Coogler’s absence on set, Caple Jr. and crew certainly gave it their all to make “Creed II” live up to its predecessor. For one, the choice to bring back a familiar foe from a previous installment in the “Rocky” franchise was made not for the sake of nostalgia, but instead to add emotional severity to Jordan’s character and his motivation to fight Viktor. Similar to the first film, Caple Jr. directs these fight scenes rather intensely, never shying away from showing the damage being done to Adonis’ physical state.
However, there is no denying that the overall plot itself is definitely formulaic to say the least. From the moment the main conflict comes into play, it’s obvious where the story is going. While that feeling of predictability serves as the film’s overall flaw, that is by no means the main point of “Creed II.”
The emotional core of the film, just like the original, is the true standout, as it often connects the audience with these characters through fantastic performances and particular exchanges of dialogue that show that sometimes you don’t always need an action-heavy fight scene to be on the edge of your seat.
One of the reasons the first “Creed” was so highly talked about when it first came out was because nobody really saw it coming, and after an arguably lackluster year of mainstream releases, it became a genuine hit among moviegoers. “Creed II” is a film that already has more than enough anticipation behind it, and because of that, it is easy for it to not live up to those already high expectations. But if you’re able to slightly lower those expectations, then “Creed II” won’t likely disappoint.