Well, Creed II came out and I saw it after Thanksgiving with a group of degenerate reprobates. We also call them lawyers.
SUMMARY (Spoilers if you haven’t seen any trailers)
Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been winning multiple fights following his loss by decision to “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew) in the last film. He’s also moved from Light Heavyweight up to Heavyweight, it seems, but that doesn’t really get mentioned. Finally, he’s fighting for the WBC Heavyweight Title once held by his father Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He wins the fight against the past-his-prime champion Danny Wheeler (Andre Ward) then proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). However, he is soon challenged to a fight by Viktor Drago (Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu) the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed his father in the ring. Since this is a boxing movie, there will be boxing.
Okay, so, the Rocky series has been, well, uneven in the past. The first film is one of the most inspiring stories of perseverance and human will on-screen. The second film was… that movie over again but this time Rocky wins. The third film was the campy story of Rocky having everything, losing it all, then getting it all back. The fourth film is him winning the Cold War in the most campy way possible that’s still awesome. There is no fifth Rocky, but the sixth Rocky is almost as good as the first and has almost none of the campiness of its predecessors. Creed was close to the first film in terms of sincerity and inspiration.
So, if Creed was closer, spiritually, to the first movie, then it makes sense that this one would be closer to Rocky II, but the filmmakers decided to instead combine the next three films by having Adonis become champion, deal with the thought of losing it all (sadly, not to Mr. T), then confronting a person who killed someone close to him (albeit, by surrogate). However, while the film series became slowly campier, less realistic, and more prone to corny subplots or pointless characters, this film… mostly avoids that. I say mostly because one subplot in the movie is that Rocky keeps trying to get the city to replace a streetlight and it’s honestly weird that it comes up in 3 scenes without ever being resolved. Aside from that, the film is mostly serious, dealing with the emotional states of all of the characters.
Here are the real pros of the film:
Michael B. Jordan is a hell of an actor. Possibly the best that’s been in the series and given that Burgess Meredith was in the original, that’s a hell of an accomplishment. He can be funny, serious, threatening, sad, scared, or desperate and none of it ever feels contrived or out of character. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone actually gets to remind us that he is an actor of some pedigree when he plays the older Rocky, who is starting to view Creed as a surrogate son just as he faces potentially dying in the ring. Their interactions stay just as fresh as the last film.
Reintroducing Drago should have been a terrible idea, but instead of being the cartoonish villain he was in Rocky IV, we’re instead shown a man who lost everything because of one fight. Drago’s wife left him, he’s broke, he lives a terrible life in Ukraine, and his only comfort comes from dreaming of the day when his son will become a success. While they don’t actually make Ivan Drago particularly sympathetic throughout the film, they do a solid job of making his son Viktor, the focus of much of Adonis’ anger and insecurity, actually seem like he’s a victim of his circumstances rather than an outright villain. Unlike Rocky IV, we do actually see both sides going through an actual character arc, rather than just side-by-side training montages.
However, there are training montages and, while I’m sad that they don’t take place in the Ukraine mountains, they are excellent. Under Rocky, Adonis’ regiment is basically a form of torture masquerading as a workout. Through the magic of movies, though, this makes him stronger rather than causing massive internal organ failure. It’s awesome.
The final fight of the movie is extremely exciting. After all the build-up, the film milks every blow, often in slow-mo, for everything that it’s worth. People were literally applauding at the end of the rounds in the theater, and I could not blame them. I like watching boxing, but this was much cleaner and more fun for casual viewers.
Also, everyone on Earth should want Apollo Creed’s gravestone.
Now for the cons:
The music in this is, for the most part, not as good as its predecessor. Or the original Rocky or Rocky III. For the record, only 3 people have ever done the music for the Rocky series, with Bill Conti doing every Rocky movie except for Vince DiCola’s Rocky IV compositions. Ryan Coogler’s collaborator Ludwig Göransson did both Creed and this film, however, the music in this just isn’t as pleasant or original. Partially because they did more music in Tessa’s style which involves being deaf. I was also deeply upset that there wasn’t a cover of “Livin’ in America” played during Creed’s entrance to fight Drago. His dad got James Brown to do it live, he could at least have gotten an impersonator.
While the last fight is pretty spectacular, the other boxing matches in the film don’t have the smooth steady-cam from the last film and, frankly, they look a little half-assed compared to the end. I understand that they wanted the last fight to stand out, but I also don’t think they needed to lower them as much as they did in order to do it.
Rocky’s streetlight will remain a mystery unless it gets brought up in the next movie.
Overall, it’s a fun movie. It’s definitely one of the lower Rocky films, but, since there’s really only one bad Rocky film, that’s still saying something pretty good. If you liked the series thus far, you’ll like this.
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