It was 1985 which saw the fourth outing for Sylvester Stallone in the much loved ‘Rocky’ series with Balboa single handedly winning the Cold War, trust me look it up all the text books agree. It’s this less credible, yet still wildly entertaining entry into the series that serves as the back story for ‘Creed II’, a risky move, especially after Ryan Coogler delivered arguably the best film in the franchise with series reboot ‘Creed’ only a few years previous. Coogler has stepped aside into an executive producer role for this sequel with Steven Caple Jr. taking over as director and all the main cast returning.
With Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) infamously killing Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the ring during the events of ‘Rocky IV’ it seems natural for his son, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and his story to give attention to this milestone of the ‘Rocky’ narrative. ‘Creed II’ sees Ivan manufacturer a chance to redeem the glory he lost when Rocky defeated him over thirty years ago by having his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu) challenge Adonis in the ring. The narrative here actually makes the events of ‘Rocky IV’ seem more credible whilst still maintaining some of the campness the eighties sports flick had in abundance. Although it could be described as unoriginal in some aspects this is to be expected eight films into a series devoted entirely to boxing. However, any unoriginality present can be forgiven due to the quality of the screenplay. As most ‘Rocky’ films do ‘Creed II’ offers rich fan service as the nostalgia for this series is so deeply embedded in the story and characters past and present. Regaining credibility and delivering an effective emotional punch in the right amounts the film, whilst maybe overall predictable, allows for the journey within this narrative to keep audiences wondering just what direction the story might take.
The strong performances of the cast help to execute the screenplay to a high standard too, each contributing to the story and to the development of the series as a whole. Jordan is so charismatic in the titular role, bringing the physicality it demands in undeniable fashion. He matches this with his dramatic ability too delivering in all areas of his performance. Tessa Thompson returns as Bianca, holding her own and giving the lead couple a powerful dynamic paving the way for a new generation of characters in this series. It all began with one man though, Stallone and he reprises his role as Rocky for an impressive eighth time. With his performance here he further confirms that Rocky Balboa is his career best role and responsible for some of his finest acting over his years in the industry. There are some other familiar faces back from previous installments too and their presence allows for a nice level of continuity connecting the films well despite the long time gap.
Another constant across the series has been the iconic music featured and ‘Creed II’ is no exception. After his excellent work on ‘Creed’ composer Ludwig Göransson, alongside a high energy, montage friendly soundtrack, provides the score. His work here is similarly worthy of praise empowering the film with its mixture of iconic sounds and fresh beats always enhancing the drama of the screenplay. The boxing sequences have a similar effect, transporting audiences right into the centre of the action. ‘Creed II’ isn’t quite as heavy on the boxing scenes as previous installments are but the scenes featured are as ferocious as ever. You’ll wince as fists meet face and attempt to dodge the incoming assaults as the opponents do. This greater focus on the drama opposed to the sporting element does make way for an uneven pace though and at times ‘Creed II’ feels lengthy. Despite this it never even comes close to becoming unbearable and is wholly worth enduring until the final bell of the end credits.
‘Creed II’ continues to move forward while also looking back, capitalising on the momentum from Coogler’s reboot and further contributing to it. This sequel is a serious contender amongst the full back catalogue of the ‘Rocky’ series comfortably becoming a highlight. A narrative that takes our characters to new places but that is so heavily influenced and dependent on the cherished past of these films makes for a compelling sports drama. Portrayed powerfully by a knockout cast they ensure that ‘Creed II’ isn’t the installment that’s throwing the towel in on this long standing icon of franchise film.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
Question: How do rank the films in the Rocky franchise?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access