I’m going to get this out of the way early: I’ve never seen a movie with “Rocky” in the title. I was introduced to this franchise with Creed, which I thought was excellent. It is probably my favorite movie of 2015. So I went into Creed II with only the baggage of its predecessor. With all that said, I thought Creed II was a very solid movie with some obvious flaws.
My biggest gripe with this movie is the fact that it has a pretty messy screenplay. Almost all of the conflict between the characters – whether it was between Donny and Rocky, Donny and Bianca, or Rocky and Ivan Drago – seemed fake and manufactured. There weren’t really any other reasons for there to be conflict in certain situations, so the characters behaved unrealistically to create the tension. Also, many of the plot points reminded me of a certain superhero movie. I won’t mention which one here, but if you want to read spoilers, scroll down past the trailer.
The second biggest problem I had with the film was the total blandness of the Viktor Drago. His entire characterization was, “He’s the son of Ivan Drago, he’s an amazing fighter, and he’s evil.” Unlike his muscular body, there was almost nothing to him. It would have added much more investment in the final fight if there had been some sort of emotional stakes to it.
As much as I feel like a hypocrite for saying this, I almost give the movie a pass for these negative aspects because of how good the rest of it was. Surprisingly, director Steven Caple Jr. does a good job of imitating Ryan Coogler’s directing style from the first movie. Aesthetically, the two movies feel like they go together and that they are a part of the same universe.
Michael B. Jordan gives perhaps his best performance to date in this film. The first Creed showed him as a bit of a hothead and Black Panther allowed him to show he can venture over into being a villain, but he is allowed to play in subtleties in Creed II. There are a lot of personal moments outside of any boxing ring, and when the camera gets close up on his face, he gets to bring deep emotion. His character goes through more, physically and emotionally, than he did in the first one, and it’s obvious how much of a toll it is taking on him. Jordan is at the very center of the emotional highs and lows all the way through.
These emotional moments hit hard, too – harder than a punch from Donny, I might say (sorry, that analogy was too easy to pass up). From the personal moments throughout the middle of the movie to the big moment at the end, the movie does a good job of keeping you guessing. The final fight really isn’t predictable the way I was expecting it to be and the film benefits from it. Creed II doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but like Adonis Johnson, it creates its own legacy.
Spoilers below the trailer!
The plot of this movie reminded me of The Dark Knight Rises, of all movies. It rushes to Donny’s first encounter with Drago, he gets hurt badly in the fight, has to step away from fighting for an extended amount of time, trains to get back to form somewhere in the desert, and comes back to beat his enemy in a final epic fight. Creed actually pulled this off better than Batman ever did.