It was always going to be nearly impossible to follow up on the lightning strike that was Creed. The sequel may not pack quite the same punch, but the performances and tried-and-true formula still make for an incredible time. Make sure you’ve seen the first film, and then buy the ticket.
Following up on 2015’s Creed seemed like something damn near impossible.
Director/writer Ryan Coogler had captured lightning in a bottle in the most implausible way: the secret son of the “villain” from Rocky enlists the famous hero to train him to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The result was a breathtaking example of filmmaking. By all rights, it should not have worked, let alone nab Oscar nominations and wins.
The sequel, lacking Coogler at the pen and helm, as well as sheer surprise factor of it all, isn’t quite the same. But it’s pretty damn close.
That is thanks to the two key factors of the franchise: the spectacular performances and the adherence to refreshing, but keeping, the winning formula.
In Creed, Michael B. Joran perfectly captured a vulnerable rage. In the sequel, his anger has ebbed and is replaced by fear. He has things to lose now, and tumult inside of him comes off in waves.
Jordan is only overshadowed by Tessa Thompson. She eschews the “supportive wife to the suffering hero” trope, going through her own deeply emotional arc. She owns every scene she is in while elevating those around her. Thompson and Jordan have established themselves as some of the best actors in their generation, and continue to prove it here.
There’s nothing new to say on Sylvester Stallone. He is, and will always be, Rocky. They are inseparable, and he could perform it in his sleep.
More surprising was the return of Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago. His subtle performance and chemistry with Florian Munteanu as his son Viktor elevated a 1980’s trope to a real, complex character.
These performances are inserted into the recognizable Rocky formula, and it works. Creed wins, he suffers, he trains, he fights again. It works like it has since 1976.
This time around the formula is used to discuss what legacy is, and what someone is willing to sacrifice to win. It’s a little more expected and a little safer than Creed, but still very effective.
It’s not clear where the franchise goes from here. The original franchise fell into cartoonish nonsense. With the right pen and continued depth from its leads, Creed could continue to shine.
At the very least, Creed II stands out as far more than a good sequel. It excels at what it does, further cementing this franchise as one of the best today.
“Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.” -Rotten Tomatoes