It feels like every weekend a new sequel or franchise reboot hits theaters. Movie fans rush in with their support and too often they leave disappointed. It’s really hard to live up to expectations, difficult to find a realistic progression within the story, and properly match the style of the previous film or films. Thankfully that is not the case here, Creed II finds a fresh new way to carry on the story while managing to stick to the core of what makes the Rocky story so beloved.
When Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is challenged to fight Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago, he decides to risk everything and avenge his father’s death. Whether or not you’re a fan of the earlier Rocky films or if Creed was your first introduction, this is a great set up! A good story is arguably the most important part and a rather large responsibility when it comes to a sequel. The screenplay written by Juel Taylor and Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone, naturally continues the story while still maintaining its authenticity and sentimentality. Great storytelling is what makes a sequel work and building upon stakes that were already clearly established while also adding some new ones is the right move. Creed II does this really well. Donnie faces new challenges to live up to his father’s legacy while simultaneously still working to create one of his own. Rocky has never truly gotten over his self inflected blame for the death of Donnie’s father Apollo Creed, and must now work to keep Donnie from following the same path. These are interesting and real stakes that are worthy of the audience’s investment and properly push the narrative forward. Without their development there would be little reason to cheer or nervously brace yourself for the impact of each punch.
Along with great writing it’s also important that the characters play a role in the story’s progression. What really brings these characters to life is the strong cast. Even though the film is telling Donnie’s story, it’s giving us Rocky’s as well. The line that separates Sylvester Stallone from Rocky continues to grow thinner by the day. Stallone continues to bring conviction, stir up your spirit and truly embodies this character. Rocky is iconic and Stallone is outstanding once again. The most important performance to the film’s success is that of Adonis Johnson. Michael B. Jordan brings his innate magnetism to this role making Donnie the type of guy you want to see succeed. His chemistry with Stallone comes across as so sincere like there’s a real history shared between them. Their love for each other is evident which works perfectly for their characters. It works so well that if the film were purely focused on their relationship it would still be a great film.
The same can be said for Jordan’s chemistry with Tessa Thompson. If the relationship between Donnie and Bianca doesn’t work then the overall story can’t work either. I could and gladly would watch a film revolved around their love story. Without their believable relationship each fight in the ring would mean a little less. Every time Bianca cheers from the outside it would be void of any real attachment. The strength of their relationship speaks to the quality of the actors. Michael B. Jordan is fantastic and even more so when Tessa Thompson shares the scene. The only issue I have with the film as a whole is that I wanted more of Bianca. Thompson is an incredible actress so naturally I wanted to spend more time with her. The struggles that she and Donnie are facing as young parents and with her hearing loss is inspiring and I wanted to see more of them maneuvering through it. The main plot still held my interest but this subplot also really captured my attention.
Everything about Creed II had a natural flow that was authentic for each of the characters. This is a sequel that was worthy of making and successfully carried out. Director Steven Caple Jr. effectively caught the tone and essence set by Ryan Coogler in the previous film. This is what fans of any franchise want to see, Creed II is a thoroughly enjoyable film, incredibly well acted and exciting to watch.
4 out of 5 stars
Director: Steven Caple Jr. Writers: Juel Taylor, Sylvester Stallone Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad Release Date: November 21st Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hours and 10 minutes