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“Creed II” isn’t as graceful as it’s predecessor, but still throws impressive punches

Sylvester Stallone stars as Rocky Balboa, Wood Harris as Tony 'Little Duke' Burton, Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed and Jacob 'Stitch' Duran as Stitch-Cutman, in CREED II

Directed by Steven Caple Jr, “Creed II” ties the new franchise closer to the “Rocky” series, summoning a sequel that’s tied closely to the events of the fourth “Rocky” film. In this latest installment, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is challenged by Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son (Florian Munteanu) to a boxing match, a fight that carries an incredible amount of baggage, for both Creed and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).

This fight is an opportunity for Creed to not only avenge his father’s death, but a way to lift himself out of his shadow. The film does a great job of having Creed wrestle with his family’s legacy and the path he wants to choose for himself. In Creed’s eyes, the fight with Drago’s son is the only way he can find peace in both, but Balboa and Creed’s family don’t see it that way.

Rocky seems shaken at the prospect of this fight. He has not only seen but felt the destruction that Drago left in his wake, despite defeating him in the fourth film. Balboa doesn’t see the point of going toe to toe with a blood-thirsty machine, but Creed won’t let it go. The film, more than anything, is about the importance of having family. Whether it be by blood or otherwise, family is a necessary oasis. Balboa alienated himself from his son, and has no family left ever since his wife Adrian died. He doesn’t want the same for Adonis, and even deeper, he doesn’t want Creed to die the same way his father did.

Though these themes of family and belonging have been touched on previously in the Rocky series, this film does an impressive job of transplanting them in the context of Creed. The film isn’t anything people haven’t seen before and follows the familiar structure people are now acquainted with in the franchise, but the family drama and seeing Creed slowly becoming a man of his own keeps it engaging.

Having Creed wrestle with his issues bring a hefty amount of weight to the fight scenes, which are surprisingly unremarkable. Though thrilling in places, the matches didn’t have a constant tension or much style to them. It doesn’t help that the film doesn't change up the match formulas, and the audience member knows what the result exactly is beforehand.

Drago and his son don’t get much screen time, but it was interesting to get a glimpse of what happened to him after losing to Rocky. His country abandoned him after they trained and built him like a machine, and this fight seems like the only way he can get back home. Lundgren does incredibly subtle work as a man realizing he’s transforming his son the same way his country transformed him, and how that wrestles with the feeling of abandonment.

Jordan, Stallone, and Tessa Thompson (as Creed’s fiance Bianca) are all predictably great in their roles. Phylicia Rashad was also fantastic as Creed’s mother, having more of a role in this film as part of Creed’s support. The film was also capably directed, but lacked Coogler’s finesse and beautiful cinematography by Maryse Alberti (though Kramer Morgenthau does a fine job).

Creed II is perhaps not as good as the first one, but it’s still an effective film thanks to its fine cast and the deepening mythology of the Rocky cinematic universe.

Grade: B-

Creed II comes out November 21

aalmutairi@theeagleonline.com


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