Creed 2 - 2018
Director(s): Steven Caple Jr.
Writer(s): Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor (screenplay) / Cheo Hodari Coker, Sascha Penn and Juel Taylor (story) / Ryan Coogler (characters)
Cinematography by: Kramer Morgenthau
Editor(s): Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider and Paul Harb
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu
2015's Creed was a genuine surprise for me, as I did not expect that a Rocky offshoot would be one of that year's best movies. Looking at the Rocky sequels, you understand my mindset. Now, the sequel was around the corner, and my trepidation was about the same, this time because writer-director Ryan Coogler did not return. Stallone and a crew took over the writing duties and a virtually unknown director Steven Caple Jr. got the gig behind the camera. Walking-out of the theater, while it never reaches the same pathos and imagery of the first Creed, it's an excellent addition to the Rocky franchise despite its formulaic story. Let’s talk about it.
The story once again centers around Adonis "Creed" Johnson (Jordan) and his rise through the ranks of the boxing world. This time he finds himself being the one challenged for the belt by another son looking to prove himself inside the ring, Viktor Drago (Munteanu). Viktor is the son of the man that murdered Adonis's father, Ivan Drago (Lundgren), and now both sons have a score to settle in the ring. An aspect that I liked a lot, one that I was not excited for, was the background they gave Viktor and his motivations to be inside of the ring. It got to the point that I felt bad for him and in some way wanted him to win even though I was still invested in Adonis's arch. The story does feel a bit disjointed at times, could be due to all the writers being credited for the screenplay, and it does over-rely on the tropes and story beats we have seen over and over again within this franchise. Despite me fully knowing how this movie was going to end, I still found myself cheering and feeling overcome with emotions.
Quick note: there is a bit of pacing issue in the middle, but it ends on such a high note that it overcomes it.
Director Steven Caple Jr. had big shoes to fill replacing Coogler, and while I won't say he filled the shoes, Caple Jr. more than held his own for all twelve rounds. The look, tone, and feel of the series were kept intact, especially during the fight scenes. All of them packed, well, a punch as they put the audience in the middle of the ring feeling each punch thrown, to the point that you are breathing as heavy as the actors. He did overuse some shots, as I think I saw the back of the heads of all the actors, but for him to be thrown in to replace Coogler, he did more than an excellent job, and I look forward to seeing him grow as a director.
The acting was good, not great, but good. Some dramatic scenes felt a bit forced, and maybe a few takes more would've helped the actors. It could also be the fault of the script not laying the proper framework for the scenes to breathe and flow allowing the audience to grasp the weight of the situation. Michael B. Jordan was solid once again in the lead role, both physically and emotionally, you can see how much this fight means to him. Sylvester Stallone doesn't reach the same height as he did in the first one, but he is still one great motivational speaker and has continued to humanize the Italian Stallion. Phylicia Rashad is the mother we all wish we have, Tessa Thompson, is the supportive partner we all wish we have and Dolph Lundgren is the father I want to no one ever have. The movie allows Lundgren to flex his acting muscles, and to my surprise, he is still in good shape.
Creed II is a by the numbers Rocky movie, that still has enough emotions to carry the audience along the same training montages they have seen countless times. The rise of Adonis has been a fun ride to see, but one that I hope they don't run into the ground as they did to Rocky's. These two movies where far better than anyone would have expected, and while I know they will surely make another one, this would be the perfect ending to all the characters involved. Hearing the old ladies in front of me clap and cheer as Adonis got up is why I love movies.
Creed II is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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