November 27, 2018 – This sequel, second in the spinoff Creed series, and eighth in the overall Rocky series (according to Wikipedia) is a remake (a good one, too) of Rocky IV (1985).
In Rocky IV, boxers Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) fought in Russia. After Creed's death in the ring, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) fights, and beats Drago. In this sequel, it is Creed's son, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, reprising his Creed role) against Drago's son, Viktor (played by Florian Munteanu, an actual experienced boxer). This film includes several of the surviving actors who appeared in Rocky IV, including Stallone, Lundgren and Brigitte Nielsen.
The film begins with Adonis winning the world heavyweight championship, despite his relative lack of experience. In the Ukraine, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren reprising his role from Rocky IV) watches with envious eyes, and sees an opportunity. Drago is an outcast from his native Russia. His friends and family abandoned him years ago when Rocky Balboa beat him in the ring. Drago has been training his big, fast, strong, talented son Viktor to fight.
Ivan Drago hooks up with an American boxing promoter, Buddy Marcelle (played by Russell Hornsby of “Fences”) to set up a fight between Creed and his son, Viktor Drago. Rocky, Creed's trainer, advises Creed not to take the fight. He is worried that Creed might not be experienced enough to take on an unconventional fighter who is bigger, stronger and who has nothing to lose. Creed is manipulated into taking the fight, and Rocky refuses to participate when Creed refuses to listen to his advice.
Normally, this fight between Creed and Drago would be the climax of the movie, but since it happens fairly early in the film, it is merely a prelude to a later fight. The screenplay, by Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor and others, goes in a different direction from what I expected. The story explores the relationships between Creed, his mother (played by Phylicia Rashad, reprising her role from Creed) and his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson reprising her role from Creed) along with a daughter, born to the couple. The story also explores the relationship between Viktor Drago and his father.
The character of Ivan Drago was a very simple one in Rocky IV. In Creed II, his character is more nuanced. Lundgren, of course, has had a long career as an actor, writer, director and producer since 1985. He knows how to inhabit this character and he does a nice job with it. Florian Munteanu also does a good job as the son, who is is not comfortable being the instrument of his father's obsession.
The story is about Creed. Michael B. Jordan is the emotional heart of this film. He gives a powerful performance. Creed must find the motivation inside himself to fight. He also must decide for himself if boxing is what he really wants to do at this time of his life. This is the subject of discussions between Creed, his mother, Rocky and Bianca. Rocky tells him he has to “get his mind right” before he gets back in the ring.
This movie, like some of the other movies in the Rocky series is about heart. In Rocky, the boxer's power comes from his heart, and from the people he loves. That theme is repeated here very effectively. It works because the movie takes its time to explore the relationships between these characters and to develop these characters. Of course there is plenty of action, too in the boxing scenes. Director Steven Caple Jr. (“The Land”) weaves this all together effectively. This film is both moving and exciting. It rates a B.
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