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Film + TV

Film ReviewCreed II: Rocky Fans Rub Your Hands, This Packs an Iconic Punch.

Words by Tom Billinghurst

The Rocky spin-off continues to defy critics and naysayers by hitting all the right cheesy boxing franchise notes.

While Creed II doesn’t quite break the mould of sequels that suffer from the brilliance of their predecessor, it doesn’t let you down on any of the classic Rocky lore, themes, narrative or iconic imagery. If anything, this is more visceral than any film in the franchise’s history. Director Steven Caple Jnr. made sure of that.

Creed defied many critics and doubters by showing that what is on the surface a bizarre concept at best worked exceptionally well with the Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Cooger combination. Creed II benefits from the stage that was set by the first of the modern day revisions of the definitive boxing film franchise, despite losing Coogler.

Creed II is a story that touches on the importance of fatherhood, redemption and overcoming adversity: all with that formulaic Rocky plot – though we love it all the more for that.

Creed II Review

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Drago: A Russian machine "raised on hate"

In short, Adonis has (since the first movie) become World Heavyweight Champion, is very much in love and expecting a child. Then Drago, a frightening machine of a Russian boxer with the sort of unrestrained aggression usually reserved for the animal kingdom, comes along and challenges Adonis to a fight. Drago also happens to be the son of his father’s killer: Ivan Drago. The stakes. Just. Got. Bigger.

Drago is also described as a man who, “was raised in hate.” Yep. They. Just. Got. Even. Bigger.

For Adonis, this is a shot at redemption. A chance to right the wrongs done to his dad. A chance “to rewrite the history books” as he puts it, in vintage classic Rocky be-all-and-end-all rhetoric.

Queue predictable but enthralling plot. (It wouldn’t be a Rocky film without it.)

There is much in Creed II that draws on the iconography of Rocky IV, the film in which Adonis’ father (Apollo Creed) was brutally slain in the ring by Ivan Drago – the physical embodiment of the ruthless military image of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

“He broke things in me that ain’t ever been fixed,” as Sly Stallone succinctly puts it, trying to deter Adonis from fighting Drago Jnr., and upping the stakes in that lazy, punched-in-the-mouth-far-too-often way that only Sly can do.

From the Rocky IV blueprint, there’s:

  • Two big fights. Equally brutal. And at times hard to watch.
  • The iconic imagery of American versus Russian.
  • The forbidding and intimidating Soviet-esque fighting environment.
  • A soundtrack that stays with you for the rest of the night, well after you’ve left the cinema.

For die-hard Rocky fans, it’s a delight. For newcomers to the franchise, it’s a captivating and revealing narrative.

While the sequel doesn’t quite live up to the billing and execution of the first film – perhaps down to Coogler’s absence (but that would be a bit harsh on Steven Caple Jnr., who did a superb job producing a visceral piece that is physically evocative), it still packs an iconic punch.

That’s thanks mainly to the brooding ferocity of Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson.

Jordan brings such believability and intensity to his scenes that you can see why there was such an outcry that he was overlooked for an Oscar for the first film. He is a showstopper, in every sense of the word, holding the script and physicality of the entire piece together.

Note: Once you see Jordan in this film, you will either want to hit the gym twice as hard, or give up completely safe in the hope that you won’t ever look as spectacularly ripped as the Black Panther villain in this film.

And then there’s Mr. Rocky himself. Stallone is superb. The role that he was destined for, it seems, maybe even more so than as the young Rocly (gasps from diehard fans, sure). An ageing boxing sage who’s still reeling from the highs of former glories; it’s Sly’s bread and butter.

And while I’m certainly not going to give anything away here, let’s say that Adonis is well on the way to emulating his father in almost every aspect of his life. So much so that Rocky says, “That’s exactly the same thing your father said to me, and he died right there in my arms.”

Surely a happier fate awaits Adonis, though? Book your tickets and find out. You won’t regret it.

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