by Hunter Johnson
The Rocky franchise is full of ups and downs, but over the course of the 42 years that it’s been running, fans have never stopped loving these boxing films.
“Creed II” is the eighth film in the Rocky franchise, and serves as a sequel to both 2015’s “Creed” and 1985’s “Rocky IV.”
For anyone who is unaware, “Rocky IV” is notable for being one of the most ridiculous boxing movies ever made. Following three absolutely beloved Rocky films, it features a 6-foot-6 Russian boxer named Ivan Drago. He first goes up against boxing legend Apollo Creed, killing him in the ring, and then goes up against Rocky Balboa, losing to Rocky in his own home country of Russia. Despite being completely outrageous, fans have never stopped adoring “Rocky IV,” loving the patriotic themes—it ends with the Russian crowds all cheering Rocky Balboa’s name in the middle of Russia during the Cold War. Again, it doesn’t hold up, but Rocky fans love it.
Now, 33 years later, audiences will finally get to see what happened to Ivan Drago next.
“Creed II” stars Michael B. Jordan, returning as Adonis Creed, along with Sylvester Stallone, making his eighth appearance as the iconic Rocky Balboa, and Dolph Lundgren, returning as the infamous Ivan Drago.
While the first “Creed” was written and directed by Ryan Coogler, this sequel is written by Stallone, who wrote all six Rocky films, and is directed by Steven Caple Jr., who makes a welcome entrance into the series with a highly enjoyable film.
“Creed II” is a fantastic addition to the Rocky series. It packs an emotional wallop of a film, making almost every right move in its execution of a script that, while not being very original, is very welcome to long-term fans and new fans alike.
This film supersedes “Rocky IV” in almost every way. While “Rocky IV” was achingly cheesy, “Creed II” is gritty and takes itself seriously. While “Rocky IV” was essentially an hour and a half of training montages filled with more music-video-esque scenes than all of its predecessors combined, “Creed II” manages to focus on the story rather than needless montages, although it does sneak in some brief training moments for fans of old-school Rocky tropes.
The first “Creed” received a lot of love from fans for both paying homage to the originals and also ushering a new age of Rocky films that are gritty, emotional and dramatic. “Creed II” takes the series in a whole new direction not by just referencing the old films, but by bringing back classic characters that audiences have not seen in years.
The characters of Ivan Drago and his son, Victor Drago, portrayed by Dolph Lundgren and the new Florian Munteanu, are possibly the greatest aspect of this film. Stallone’s script brings a whole new level of character to the Drago family by adding an incredible amount of texture and emotional resonance to the father-son bond between these two characters.
That father-son arc is paralleled to the relationship of Adonis and Rocky. Over the course of these two films, these characters have created a true bond that relates all the way back to Rocky being the best friend of Adonis’s deceased father, and taking the role as a new father figure to Adonis. Stallone and Jordan both bring an incredible amount of depth to these characters that make the film as good as it is.
Tessa Thompson also returns as Adonis’s girlfriend, Bianca. Thompson yet again brings incredible talent to the screen as a fully realized and complex aspect of the story.
At almost every step of this film, it has the chance to turn cheesy, ridiculous and stereotypical, but instead, the writers and director bring together a film that works in nearly every single way. It will satisfy fans of the beloved franchise and it will push new fans into going back and watching the classic Rocky films that have meant so much to so many people. It works as a boxing flick and it works as an intense character study on fathers and sons. Either way, “Creed II” is sure to please.
Hunter Johnson is a sophomore theatre major and an arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. He spends his time acting on stage, reading and watching Star Wars, and occasionally doing homework.