A fam­ily af­fair

Creed II sees Ado­nis fight­ing the son of his father’s killer. Will old scores be set­tled?

Empire (Australasia) - - PREVIEW - CHRIS HE­WITT

THERE ARE NO prizes for guess­ing that Creed II is the se­quel to Creed. The clue’s in the name. But, as the eighth film in the Rocky saga, it also has the hon­our of be­ing a se­quel to six other movies. And one in par­tic­u­lar: Rocky IV.

In case you’ve for­got­ten the cheesi­est of all Rocky movies, that’s the one where Sly Stal­lone runs up a moun­tain; the one where James Brown sang ‘Liv­ing In Amer­ica’; the one with the ro­bot but­ler. It’s also, cru­cially, the one where the beloved Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) met his end at the ham­mer hands of gi­ant Rus­sian punch-bas­tard, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lund­gren). Drago is the rea­son why

Ado­nis Creed (Michael B. Jor­dan) never got to meet, let alone know, his father.

And if that seems like fer­tile ground to mine for drama, you’re ab­so­lutely right. For Creed II will see Ado­nis face off against Vik­tor Drago (Flo­rian Mun­teanu), a huge unit who just hap­pens to be the son of the man who killed his father.

“The theme of the film is fam­ily,” says Steven Caple Jr, who re­places

Ryan Coogler in the di­rec­tor’s chair.

“The film isn’t about just one per­son, it’s about who’s be­hind you. Who, le­git, is in your cor­ner?”

In this movie, that’s not just a neat phrase. For, just to make things even

more melo­dra­matic — Shake­spearean, even — Ado­nis and Vik­tor have two old ri­vals in their cor­ner: Rocky Bal­boa, nat­u­rally, and one Ivan Drago.

Where Drago has been for so long re­mains to be seen, but the re­turn of the one true vil­lain of the en­tire se­ries (it could be ar­gued that Rocky was al­ways his one true en­emy) is a mouth­wa­ter­ing prospect. “That char­ac­ter was so huge in Rocky IV,” says Jor­dan. “We didn’t have a real vil­lain or an­tag­o­nist first time around. It was more or less an ori­gin story.

This time we’ve found the per­fect ve­hi­cle to build on that.”

The Rocky se­ries has boasted emo­tional depth and com­plex­ity from the off. That’s what makes the up­per­cuts and jabs re­ally sting. And Caple Jr knows that this tale of fa­thers, sons, and the sins of the past is filled with rich dra­matic ma­te­rial. “Ivan Drago com­ing back could be su­per one way, genre-es­que, and the other way is there could be a char­ac­ter piece, and a story that feels nat­u­ral and not so in your face.”

Creed was, with­out doubt, a char­ac­ter piece, one that saw Stal­lone nom­i­nated for a Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tor Os­car (he nar­rowly lost on points to

Mark Ry­lance). Is it too fan­ci­ful a no­tion to imag­ine that the se­quel might present Lund­gren with a sim­i­lar show­case? In­cred­i­bly, Rocky IV was his first movie. This will be his 70th. And yet he ad­mits that, on Creed II, “I learned a lot as an ac­tor. I don’t think I’ve ever played a guy that des­per­ate be­fore. He’s an­gry at the world, es­pe­cially Rocky. Which makes the father-son re­la­tion­ship in­ter­est­ing.”

It’s father fig­ure vs father. Son vs son. Rus­sia vs Amer­ica (which feels timely, again). The in­gre­di­ents are there for a clas­sic Rocky/creed movie. And this one won’t have a ro­bot but­ler.

CREED II IS IN CIN­E­MAS FROM 29 NO­VEM­BER

Em­pire spoke to the Creed II cast and crew in Philadel­phia (where else?) on 21 May. Main: Ado­nis Creed (Michael B. Jor­don) psy­ches him­self up for the fight against Drago’s son Vik­tor. In­set: Rocky Bal­boa (Sylvester Stal­lone) trains up Creed.

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