'Creed II' Deals Knock Out Punches In and Out of the Ring!
Back in 2015, director Ryan Coogler delivered a rejuvenating shock into a franchise many thought to be past its prime, as Creed not only saw the return of Sylvester Stallone as the iconic Rocky Balboa (an effort that earned him a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), but the film also established an exciting new protagonist: Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan. The film was heartfelt, grounded, and gritty, and I’m pleased to tell you its sequel isn’t just more of the same, but serves as a natural evolution of Adonis’s story.
This time around, Adonis has established himself as the legitimate champion of the world and has a solid relationship built with his girlfriend, Bianca, played by the wonderful Tessa Thompson. The film also gives Bianca a spotlight as her music career begins to grow, and every decision made by Adonis is deeply interconnected with Bianca, creating a rich relationship between the two characters, a relationship that was one of the best parts of the first film. However, Adonis’s life is ruptured when Viktor Drago, son of the disgraced boxer Ivan Drago, challenges Adonis to a fight.
Considering Ivan Drago brutalized Adonis’s father, Apollo, to the point of death in an exhibition fight over 30 years ago (as seen in Rocky IV), Adonis sees this as a chance to instill some redemption in the Creed name, but his decision to accept the fight ultimately pushes his loved ones away, including Rocky, who is adamantly against Adonis potentially making the same mistake as Apollo.
A plot centering around a grudge match between the sons of Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed admittedly does sound pretty bonkers, but new director Steven Caples Jr. makes everything feel so personal to the characters that the story becomes quite investing – for both corners of the boxing ring. A pleasant surprise was just how much we get to see into the broken lives of Ivan and Viktor Drago, to the point where you actually feel some sympathy towards the two. While the film has some electrifying boxing matches and one hell of a desert training sequence (a clear contrast to Rocky’s iconic snow training in the 4th film), it’s the narrative outside of the boxing ring that makes Creed II a great sequel.
Much of what made the first Creed great was the cinematography and score, and the same can be said for this film. The score in particular is outstanding, which comes as no surprise for a franchise known for its high-flying music. It’s another knock-out score for Ludwig Goransson, who scored the first film, as well as Black Panther earlier this year, and it’s only a matter of time before he earns himself an Oscar nomination. He has a knack for blending orchestrated scores with terrific hip-hop vocals, a testament to his time working alongside Childish Gambino. The soundtrack also features some great pieces from A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples, and, of course, Tessa Thompson.
The film mirrors Rocky II, III, and IV with its structure and themes of becoming the best person you can be, not only for yourself, but for your family and the people you love. It’s touching to see Adonis deal with failure and how the progression of his personal life makes him change as a person and as a fighter. When Adonis is broken in this film, it’s heartbreaking, but when he puts himself back together, it’s exhilaratingly triumphant. The film’s themes make it perfect for the franchise, and its uniqueness keeps the Creed story fresh and audiences excited for more.
Creed II is currently in theaters everywhere.
(Image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Michael Gonzalez, YH Contributing Writer