Creed II might tell a familiar story, but thanks to great fight scenes and a dynamite cast bringing life to great characters it turns into a great movie overall.
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Summary: Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, light heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago.
We live in a very strange timeline because there is absolutely no reason both of the Creed movies should be as good as they are. They are a spinoff from the Rocky movies which aren't exactly consistent in quality and is pretty much the only example of a spinoff not just working but working well. They really helped propel Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and propelled Ryan Coogler to the mainstream audience. Now a sequel is here to remind us that everyone who was great in the first movie is still great and that we live in a world where Dolph Lundgren is so good in this he probably deserves a supporting actor nomination. Creed II hits a lot of the same story beats as Rocky IV but that is very much by design. The first movie was all about Adonis rising above the legacy of his father and now the death of his father is coming back in the form of Viktor Drago.
This is a movie very much about the sins of the father following the son. Both Adonis and Viktor are very much shaped by not only their father's but their father's legacies. Adonis lost his father at a very young age and never knew him but Rocky came in to fill that father-shaped hole in the last movie. Viktor has been trained as a fighter for his entire life. His father lost everything when he lost to Rocky and he has spent the intervening years using Viktor as a means of redemption. It's a story that a lot of people can relate to because parents can put their homes and dreams, and in the case of Ivan his failures, onto their kids. You realize what these two men have lost and both Lundgren and Florian Munteanu are both so good in their respective roles that you start to feel bad for them.
It makes the latter half of the movie much more interesting because you are watching the fights, and while you want Adonis to win you also find yourself wanting the Drago men to get a win as well. It takes great acting and even better writing to get that sort of sympathy for characters like this which is a real credit to the various writers. Sylvester Stallone isn't in this movie as much as the first, but he really embraces the fact that Rocky is an old and slightly broken man. There is an extended bit about a light that is such a note-perfect depiction of what an old man would complain about that it's downright hilarious.
The fight scenes continue to be some of the best parts of the movie, and any time that Adonis and Viktor step in the ring together, you find yourself wincing with every hit that lands. Both of the men really give not only a notion of pain but of strength. They are brutal to watch at times, but like in the screening I got to attend, you find yourself cheering when the fighter you're rooting for lands a hit. Director Steven Caple Jr. does an excellent job of making you feel like you're in the ring with these fighters, including several first-person point of view shots that are intense.
Much like the first movie, Creed II is a bit on the long side, clocking in at over two hours and three minutes shorter than the first one. However, real credit must be given to everyone involved that you never really feel that length, which is indicative of great pacing. The soundtrack is also killer, including some tracks by Thompson which are fantastic. She needs to release an album immediately.
Creed II, much like the first movie, has no right being as good as it is, yet both of these movies work like gangbusters. The performances, the story, the writing, it all works so well that you don't even mind that some of it is a little familiar.