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Creed 2 Lives Up to the Name, But Lacks Creativity

By Mason Masotta
On December 7, 2018


Rocky Balboa won the Cold War thirty-three years ago when he defeated top Russian boxer, Ivan Drago, in front of the Soviet Union. After giving a rousing speech about peace and change, the Russian people began cheering his name and admiring American courage to a triumphant 80’s song (“Hearts on Fire”). A hard camera freeze on the triumphant hero’s face showed the beauty and majesty of capitalist power.

So yeah, that’s Sylvester Stallone’s uber-patriotic “Rocky 4.” Making more money than any other sports film of the time, it cemented Rocky as an American film icon and folk hero from Philadelphia. All that being said, it is extremely cheesy for 2018. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the “Rocky” franchise, but I think most can agree that the Russia equals bad, America equals good plot line is outdated and cliché. These concerns carried over as I got ready to experience “Creed II.”

“Creed II” opens with Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) reaching the top of the heavyweight boxing world as the reigning champion. With mentor Rocky Balboa in his corner and his family beginning to grow, all seems well until a challenge is issued by an enemy from Balboa’s past. Former Russian phenom Ivan Drago (responsible for the in-ring death of Adonis’ father Apollo) presents his son Viktor Drago as the next contender for Creed’s title. Feeling that he must take the fight to honor his father’s legacy, Adonis must once again prove that he is more than just a name.

If you’ve seen the first film, then this description has to sound incredibly familiar. The original “Creed” felt like a unique experience introducing the world to a new kind of underdog story. We get that same story again here and it just didn’t hit the same way that the film’s predecessor did. The narrative overall isn’t a particularly creative one. We get a revenge mission crammed into a sports drama as Adonis once again must prove his worth. This lesson, or theme rather, was already done years ago. In fact, all of the “Rocky” films have done exactly what this one did.

That is not to say this was an unsatisfying movie at all. Michael B. Jordan excels and cements himself as one of the biggest rising stars in Hollywood. Bringing raw emotion and passion as he shares scenes with a screen veteran like Sylvester Stallone, Jordan proves, much like his character, that he deserves to be there.

Also, I just have to say, he looks absolutely ridiculous (physically) in this film. We’re all pretty used to celebrities putting on muscle for this kind of movie, but this is crazy. Jordan was shredded in “Creed,” huge in “Black Panther” (where he played villain Killmonger), and near superhuman for this film. It’s interesting to look at how there is an expectation for actors and actresses today to perform like true thespians as well as train and diet like athletes.

Tessa Thompson (returning as Bianca Taylor) also manages to bring the heart in the film and plays as an ambition balancing partner for Adonis to communicate with. She, too, has a blossoming career (in music instead of boxing) and fleshes out further the importance of family throughout the film.

The greatest achievement of the sequel has to be in not ruining the Drago family with goofy Russian stereotypes. While the 1985 film made Ivan Drago a non-speaking Russian battering ram with no emotion, we get to see the cost of his loss to Rocky and the pressures placed on his son Viktor to bring glory back to their country and, more importantly, their family. And boy is Viktor Drago (played by Florian Munteanu) the ultimate opponent for Jordan’s Adonis Creed. Aside from the fact that he is almost a half foot taller than the films hero, he also wants to win just as bad. Growing up with just as much of a chip on his shoulder as his opponent, they are both fighting for a similar goal: to prove their worth to their fathers.

“Creed II” is really only guilty of one crime: it’s very formulaic, but as the eighth installment of the “Rocky” franchise this is understandable. I would give the film a solid 8/10 as an overall movie, but a much lower score in terms of originality. I honestly have no idea where they could go with a third film to follow this. After all, boxing the son of your father’s killer is pretty high stakes for any sequel. In terms of narrative progression, I honestly just hope we don’t get more sons of Rocky enemies popping up in future installments. 

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