Jordan still packs a punch
Creed II (12A) The first Creed movie surpassed expectations to pack a punch with both audiences and critics alike.
Tapping into tradition while delivering in its own right, it would have worked just fine as a standalone outing; however, in this era of franchises and extended universes a sequel was inevitable.
Creed II takes aim at Rocky fans’ nostalgic feelings even more than its predecessor by putting Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis on a collision course with Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) – the man who killed Adonis’ father Apollo.
This is as much a belated follow-up to 1985’s Rocky IV as the next instalment of the Creed series and the raw emotion provided by the father-son dynamic – with Sylvester Stallone’s returning Rocky filling in for Apollo as Adonis’ figurative old man – is intense.
Ryan Coogler’s sterling work on Marvel’s Black Panther meant he had to vacate the director’s chair this time around; not to worry, though, as replacement Steven Caple Jr makes such a fine fist of things the transition is pretty seamless.
This may be Caple Jr’s first mainstream cinematic effort but the 30-year-old shows creativity and flair behind the camera.
The boxing scenes in particular better the first film’s as Caple Jr takes all the elements of Rocky’s finest bouts and gives them a modern twist befitting successor Adonis.
Jordan is dynamite once again, exhibiting tenderness with girlfriend Bianca (a wonderful Tessa Thompson), banter, frustration and warmth with Rocky and inner rage and feverish physicality towards the Dragos.
Stallone, who also co-wrote the screenplay and at one point seemed set to direct, doesn’t have as well-rounded a role this time around but his presence is key; he tugs at the heartstrings and brings levity – and the Rocky-Ivan face-offs deliver some serious goosebumps.
Real-life boxer Munteanu fares less well. He may be physically impressive but there’s little to his character bar his family ties and he’s not the upgrade on Creed’s previous opponent Tony Bellew – who wasn’t exactly a stellar foe; part of me wishes Ivan had pulled on the gloves instead of his boy.
The emotion is still there but there’s no denying Creed II lacks the depth of the previous movie – and Rocky’s best – and the script gets bogged down with a few too many weighty speeches when a couple of words would’ve done just nicely.
No matter what has come before, though, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the cracking climactic showdown as more than three decades worth of Rocky-flavoured drama comes to the boil in authentic, bruising style.
The Rocky sequels never matched the quality of the original and while Creed II falls short of its predecessor, it’s by no more than a tiny points difference rather than a knockout blow.
Passing the torch Rocky acts as corner man for Adonis