This Is a Movie Review: ‘Creed II’ Draws From the ‘Rocky’ Franchise’s Past With Both Predictable and Resonant Results

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Barry Wetcher/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby

Director: Steven Caple, Jr.

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Swollen Shut Bruised Eyes and Other Boxing Injuries

Release Date: November 21, 2018

The first Creed was just about as crowd-pleasing a blast of a fighter and young man coming into his own as the original Rocky was. And now with Creed II … Adonis Creed’s story continues. If you agree that Michael B. Jordan delivered some much-needed energy as the new lead character in this franchise, you may very well be invested in seeing where it goes from here. But it is hard not to prevent it from all being episodic in a way that sequels like these can so easily be. And naturally enough, just as Rocky II featured Rocky and Adrian marrying and having a son, Creed II features Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) marrying and having a daughter. If you have a heart and any appreciation for family whatsoever, it’s certainly affecting, but also strikingly predictable.

But ultimately Creed II is more of a direct follow-up to Rocky IV, as Adonis squares off against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), who beat Adonis’ dad Apollo in the ring so badly that he died from the fight. Rocky’s bout against Ivan was a symbolic Cold War-era standoff, and an American-Russian rivalry is the most culturally relevant it has been since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While that subtext can easily be found if you want to examine it, the more prominent theme is the difference in coaching styles. The family and friends in Adonis’ corner offer him no-strings love and support, whereas Ivan constantly reminds his son that he will be a disappointment to his whole country if he does not win. By the end, there is a pivot that demonstrates that the Dragos have a more loving relationship than we are initially privy to, and I would have loved to have seen more of that. We get plenty of scenes with the Munteanu and Lundgren, but if they had been even more the mirror image of what Jordan and Sylvester Stallone do together, Creed II could have been a whole lot more magical.

Creed II is Recommended If You Like: Rocky completism

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Title Belts

Best Film Ensembles of 2015

Leave a comment

When the folks who say the words and act out the movements flocked together, these were the groups who made the most thunder.

big_short_yelling

More

Best Films of 2015, 11-20

Leave a comment

FuriosaScream

I already posted my top 10 list on Starpulse, but wouldn’t you know it, there were plenty of other great movies. Here are three less than a baker’s dozen worth:

11. Mad Max: Fury Road – Charlize barks at the moon, giving us our most iconic image of 2015.
12. Krampus – The tricks are a treat, as is the teamwork among a dysfunctional family.
13. Creed – Adonis unapologetically forges ahead to be true to his identity and establish his family.
14. Sleeping with Other People – The question this time isn’t, “Can men and women be friends without wanting to sleep with each other?” but “Why wouldn’t they if they like each other enough?”
15. The Visit – Right at home on the corner of creepy and hilarious.
16. Brooklyn – Even when Eilis Lacey’s life is hard, there is so much love in her world.
17. Unfriended – The most formally ingenious movie in years, perhaps decades even.
18. The Peanuts Movie – Charlie Brown is preternaturally neurotic; ergo, this one’s a thinker.
19. Room – Tight corners promote empathy.
20. Furious 7 – The first F&F movie in which I actually remembered some of the plot aftewards.

This Is a Movie Review: Creed

Leave a comment

CREED

“Rocky, Apollo Creed’s son looks at you and says, ‘family.’ What does that mean to you?” “It means I’m a lucky guy, what can I say.”

Creed is a rather formulaic movie, that formula being “Rocky movie.” To be clear, “Rocky movie” is a genre unto itself. It is a dialect within the language of underdog movies within the family of languages of sports movies. This latest entry fulfills the promise of that dialect.

Following in the footsteps of the recent Fast and Furious sequels, Creed incorporates all of the most ridiculous elements of the previous sequels in the series and turns them into something beautiful. But whereas those car movies have become increasingly over-the-top, this latest boxing tale scales back to the intimate size of the original. It is essentially the same story as Rocky, but Creed utilizes this framework to key into the heritage and possible futures of its main characters. Adonis Creed’s biggest accomplishment is not going the distance but instead, living up to his personal identity while nourishing his place in his family (birth, makeshift, or otherwise).