The question I always have with a film sequel is, do we need this movie or not? More times than not, the concept and plot are the same old story being rehashed with new characters and concepts. This is far from the case with Creed 2. While there are certainly parallels and call backs to prior Rocky films, it stands on its own and tells a new story about a fighter trying to reclaim his honor and ultimately regain his confidence.
We begin the film with Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) winning the WBC title from an older champion that was far past his prime. Initially, there is some slight criticism from announcers and commentators regarding his victory and stating the former champ was about 3 years past his prime. To bait Adonis to fight a “real” challenger, boxing promoter Tony Evers (Wood Harris) works with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) for his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to challenge Adonis for the title. Evers and the Drago’s use the death of Apollo Creed in Rocky 4 to manipulate Adonis into the bout. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) tell Adonis not to take the fight and that Viktor is a dangerous fighter and refuses to train him. Adonis takes the fight and wins due to a disqualification by Viktor taking a cheap shot while Adonis is knocked down. The loss causes Adonis to lose his confidence as a fighter and thus fall into a depression.
After an unspecified amount of time, and the birth of Adonis’s daughter, Rocky travels to visit Adonis and help talk him into fighting Viktor again. Que the training music and the climax where Adonis and Viktor have a memorable bout in which Adonis is victorious in a somewhat surprising finish.
Adonis Creed learning to deal with loss and rebuilding his own self-confidence is the main struggle for his character. After a brutal beating from Drago in their first match, he falls into a bit of a depression and finds it hard to train again. He struggles a bit with being a new father, especially in one scene that is comical to any father left alone with their child for the first time. The film spends a good amount of time on Adonis’s struggles and trying to overcome his defeat. Once he receives some words of encouragement from Rocky and his wife, he returns to his training and accepts the rematch with Viktor Drago. The Adonis character grew substantially over the film and he was able to overcome his father’s death and move forward with his own family. By the end of the film, it felt like Adonis was finally making his own path in the boxing world and had come out from under his father’s and Rocky’s shadows.
Ivan and Viktor Drago are on a path to redemption. Ivan is training his son to do something he could not. That is, to topple the greatest American fighter. Ludmilla Drago (Brigitte Nielsen) returns surprisingly once Viktor decimates Adonis in their first match. This is major point of contention with Viktor because his mother left him and his father sometime after Ivan’s loss to Rocky. It seems in Ivan’s mind, that by Viktor rising to the challenge and beating Creed, that all his past failures will be undone and perhaps Viktor could have his mother back in his life. I enjoyed seeing their story told a bit more than Ivan’s was in Rocky 4 and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
I was a bit surprised with the Rocky story in the film. One aspect of it was how he acknowledges he has become estranged from his son and is ashamed of himself for that. It serves as a reasoning for why he bonds with Adonis so well. At the core of the film, this is a Rocky movie. It revolves a lot around the death of Apollo Creed and Rocky must face Ivan Drago one more time and come to terms with not throwing in the towel during the Creed/Drago fight in Rocky 4. I think this was a bit more depth than we have seen in the Rocky character in a bit. I think one term I would use to describe Rocky in this film, is wise. While not the most intellectual character in cinema, if you study the character’s outlook on life and how he treats those close to him, he shows a level of wisdom most of us do not see on a regular basis. He constantly is using his life and others life experiences as teachable moments to others, so they can better themselves. While I have seen this in the character since Rocky Balboa, it has been something he has brought to the films all along, if you can understand him.
Bianca served more as the Adrian role in this film than in Creed. She was supportive of Adonis from the start and never got in his way or tried to sway him from his passion of fighting. At one point the two even discuss that they are a team and for Adonis to fight Viktor a second time, he needs her support and blessing, which she gives under the condition that he wins. With her being a new mother approximately half way through the film, we do not see too much in her own character development other than being Adonis’s support system. I personally would have wanted to see her character fleshed out more in the script to help sway Adonis back on track after he is decimated by Viktor Drago.
The characters in Creed 2 were certainly all believable and relatable characters in one aspect or another. I did not see one instance of any of them acting outside the realm of what a normal person would do. Each character had a great backstory and there is a resolution for each character by the end of the film. If the series ended here, I think everyone would feel like it ended on a high note.
Overall, I felt that Creed 2, or Rocky 8 as you could also call it, was good film. The overarching theme of the film, is redemption. It was captivating to me as a fan of the Rocky series and continues with a story that makes sense and is not reaching too much for source material. While the story in Creed 2 was different from the other films of the series, it seemed to be a combination of Rocky 2, 3 and 4, where the first Creed was reminiscent of Rocky 1. It seems the directors are taking a modern spin on the Rocky story but utilizing that character as the glue to hold the series together. Without the Rocky character, I do not think that the first film would have been able to hold up. Rocky has been essential to the two Creed film’s thus far. Going forward, it would be interesting to see the torch passed to a new trainer for Adonis.
The film is of course left open for another installment, but the real question is where would the series go next? There is one obvious answer. Retell the McGregor/Mayweather fight using Creed and another fighter. But for the added twist, have this one take place as an MMA match. Bring back Wood Harris as Tony Evers looking to make another highlight match and cast an actual MMA fighter to rival Adonis. It seems like this would be the only route for the series to go without retelling the same story again. One of the clutch performances this would need is a real villain. Someone who is as outspoken as McGregor was before his match with Mayweather, and a coach who was equally as vicious and ruthless. It would be a change for the Rocky story and concept, but it would certainly be something fun and unique for the series to explore. With a decent opening week, another sequel could be likely, but time will tell if we get another installment to the franchise or not. If you have not seen Creed 2 yet, check out the trailer below and give it a shot!