‘Creed II’ expands upon its ‘Rocky’ legacy
Spoiler alert! This story discusses Ivan Drago’s full character arc in ‘Creed II.’ Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to know.
Three decades after falling to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in “Rocky IV,” disgraced Russian killing machine Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is back for revenge in “Creed II.”
It’s a meal best served after many cold Ukrainian winters.
With his brutal son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) doing the fighting, icehearted Drago challenges Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of boxing legend Apollo Creed, who was killed by Drago in the “Rocky IV” ring.
Lundgren, 61, says “Creed II” (in theaters now) pays homage to his classic villain, before it changes the course of Drago’s history.
“‘Rocky IV’ was like, ‘We’re in a nuclear stand-off with Russia, we need this bad guy without layers,’ ” says Lundgren. “I was pleased to play a character with a little more emotion and more rounded than the first.”
Seriously, this is your last chance to stop reading. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Drago was definitely going to ‘break’ something.
Director Steven Caple Jr. knew he had to work in Drago’s “I must break you” utterance into the new movie.
“It’s such a classic line, but we couldn’t have Drago say, ‘I must break you. Again,’ ” Caple says. “We had to find a way that really sung.”
After trying many variations, it landed with Drago telling Rocky: “My son will break your boy.”
Drago also shoves Viktor’s mouthguard into his jaws to push him during the Adonis fight, saying, “You must break him.”
The Rocky-Drago rematch in fact happened, then was cut.
After Viktor pummeled Adonis in the film’s first charity bout, Caple filmed a hospital showdown between Rocky and Drago. The informal rematch makes sense on paper: “You’d hear the fans say, ‘Oh, man, they need to fight.’ ”
But it didn’t work. “It was pushing the limit of how far we stepped into ‘Rocky IV,’ ” Caple says. “We made that executive decision to cut it. No one wanted to force it.”
Drago throws in the towel on his cold heart.
In “Rocky IV,” Rocky holds off on throwing in the towel to end the ultimately tragic Drago-Apollo fight. Apollo told Rocky not to stop the fight, no matter what. And he died.
The still-haunted Rocky considers tossing in the towel during the “Creed II” Viktor-Adonis showdown as his protege is pummeled. But Adonis, like his father, forbids the move before turning the tables.
When Viktor then is crushed by Adonis, former killing-machine Drago surrenders, throwing the bloody towel to end the fight.
“Drago is the last guy in the world you’d expect to throw in the towel, so it’s powerful,” Lundgren says. “But my son’s life is at stake.”
The end dovetails perfectly with “Rocky IV” and gives a new view of a Drago with heart. He even emotionally tells his losing son that he’s proud for the first time. It’s a very different view of his past villainy and his own lonely Rocky defeat.
“After he saw it, Dolph came up to me afterward in tears he was so happy with it,” says Caple.
Drago always was going to show emotion in ‘Creed II.’
Caple says Drago, who spoke only nine lines in “Rocky IV,” was always going to display emotion in “Creed II.” But he cut out earlier glimpses of heart.
“I realized during the editing that you started to side with Drago. Then Creed’s win doesn’t feel like a win, it’s less heroic,” he says. Caple saved the humanizing for the final act.
“It’s the ending when we create this multidimensional character,” he says. “You start to feel for Drago.”
It’s been a while. Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago stares down Sylvester Stallon’s Rocky Balboa in “Creed II.”
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and Drago (Dolph Lundgren) square off in “Rocky IV.”
Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) tries to rally his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) in “Creed II.”