When “Rocky Balboa” was released in 2006, many wondered how a sixth “Rocky” film would perform when the last one prior to that was released in 1990. Sylvester Stallone himself was not all too pleased with how “Rocky V” ended, and he wanted to do right by Rocky Balboa. Needless to say, he did so as he was the writer and the director behind it. Because of the good will he had built up from the sixth installment, fans were excited for “Creed,” which was released in 2015 and directed by Ryan Coogler.
Coogler was coming off the success of “Fruitvale Station,” and it was set to star Michael B. Jordan, also from the aforementioned film. It was in good hands, as they were wise to hand the franchise over to Jordan while still keeping Stallone around. The film was organic, funny, entertaining, and powerful at the same time. When it was time for “Creed II,” they handed it over to Steven Caple Jr. I’m happy to report he did a terrific job with “Creed II,” and the writers also had a fresh idea to bring to the table: bring back Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and introduce his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu). After all, everyone remembers how things ended up in “Rocky IV” between Drago and Apollo Creed.
When the film gets started, everything seems to be going well for Adonis Creed. He wins the World Heavyweight Championship, proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and he also has a baby on the way. His world, however, gets turned upside down when Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, challenges him. This is the same Ivan Drago who killed his father back in 1985. Rocky tries to tell him to stay away from the fight and that he is fighting for the wrong reasons.
Adonis’ pride, however gets in the way and he ends up taking on the fight, regardless, and without Rocky his corner. His life only becomes more complicated and painful from that point forward. Now, he needs to figure out what to do in order to get his career, his health, and his life back on track. It won’t be easy for Adonis, but everything in his life has always been a fight. Rocky just wants him to figure out what he’s fighting for and also realize he has other people counting on him as well.
There is a lot to like about “Creed II.” I’m not going to say if it is better or worse than 2015’s “Creed.” It is just as good. It is just different, and it is dealing with different themes and different messages. Jordan gives a knockout (I know, easy pun) performance here. All of his emotions are in his face, and it’s a performance with a lot of nuance and complexity attached to it. As an audience member, you understand what he’s doing and why, even if you don’t always agree with him.
His relationship with Tessa Thompson’s Bianca also brings a big heart to the film. These two have tremendous chemistry together and it is a joy to watch them on screen. Stallone has said he is walking away from the franchise after this movie, and it seems like the right move. Make no mistake about it, Stallone’s the backbone of this franchise and he makes the most of every scene he’s in even though he doesn’t get a lot of screen time. He does a lot with a little. I imagine this was intentionally done, as he was one of the writers on the project.
The film deals with the complexity of a father/son relationship and how men are trying to carve out their own image and legacy. There is a lot of meat in this script, as Adonis is becoming a father himself. Phylicia Rashad is back here once again, and she brings such fierce intensity and knowledge to her role as Mary Anne Creed. There is not a bad performance in the film. It’s heartwarming, intense, and very, very entertaining.
With that said, it is not a perfect film. I would argue it is about twenty minutes too long. As with most boxing movies, the boxing itself and the training montages are not all that interesting compared to the relationships in the film. What transpires throughout the film will not surprise anyone, but when it’s done with such warmth and commitment from the actors, it helps elevate the material into something really, really special. While I don’t think we need a “Creed III,” I can’t say I would necessarily mind one if the right people are involved in the project.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Creed II” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray combo pack, which also includes a digital copy, from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film is rated PG-13 for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality. It has a running time of 130 minutes. It is presented in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 16×9, 2.4:1. The audio formats are Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, DTS MA: English 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital: Français 5.1, and Español 5.1. Subtitles are included in English, French, and Spanish.
Fathers and Sons (07:16): This special feature talks about how “Creed II” touches on the father/son dynamic and what a big role it plays in the film and also in life. Interviews with the cast and crew are featured as well as some famous boxers including Sugar Ray Leonard. They even talk about the Shakespearean aspects of the story.
Casting Viktor Drago (05:43): This special feature is all about the casting of Florian Munteanu who comes from a boxing background. Stallone wanted him in the film and saw something special in him. Munteanu talks about how grateful he is to be in the film as he is familiar with all of the “Rocky” films. He trained for seven months and really committed to the role, which impressed his fellow actors and the director as well.
The Women of “Creed II” (05:51): Sugar Ray Leonard appears once again, and he gives credit to the women that are alongside the boxers through all of the training and the punishment in the ring. Director Steven Caple Jr. didn’t just want Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad to be in the background of the film. He wanted them to get their due. It’s a big reason why the film is as effective as it is because each and every character serves a significant purpose.
The “Rocky” Legacy (15:01): This is hosted by Dolph Lundgren, and it discusses the impact the “Rocky” franchise has had not only on boxing movies, but also on the sport itself. They also tie it together with “Rocky IV” and “Creed II.” The cast and crew of “Creed II” talk about the music, the boxing scenes, and why the franchise has lasted as long as it has going all the way back to 1976.
Deleted Scenes (09:46): One notable deleted scene worth mentioning is one where Rocky performs a eulogy for Spider Rico, the first fighter he ever fought in the “Rocky” films. It’s a powerful scene and one which should have been in the film despite my issues with its length. The other three deleted scenes include Rocky training young kids to box, Adonis and Bianca talking about his legacy, and the aftermath of the fight between Adonis and Viktor.