Film Review: Creed 2 – 8/10

‘It may not seem like it now, but… this is more than just a fight’

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While Creed felt like a much needed shot in the arm for the Rocky franchise after the disappointment of Rocky V and the lack of credibility inherent in Rocky Balboa, it wasn’t without flaws of its own. Real life boxer Tony Bellew made for a largely forgettable antagonist, a far cry from the days of Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago. Creed 2 attempts to address that problem by resurrecting a legend…

When Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is challenged to a bout with Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), he knows he must try to avenge the death of his father. But will former champ Rocky Balboa still be fighting Creed’s corner?

I should start by saying I really enjoyed Creed, this films predecessor. It felt like a fresh take on an ailing franchise that swept away a lot of the dead wood whilst still retaining the beating heart of what makes a Rocky film a Rocky film. Namely, Sly Stallone shrugging a lot and generally being an onscreen legend. That being said, you can draw a line in the sand between Creed and every Rocky film that came before it. Creed just felt different. For better or worse, Creed II harks back to the glory days of the franchise with a film that embraces unrealistic but cinematic boxing, training montages and a huge dollop of melodrama. Personally, I am a firm believer that these are things that make the Rocky franchise so compelling and so enduring. The risk was that in trying to go back, the film would feel dated and irrelevant. Fortunately, I still have a great appetite for watching people drag huge bits of wood around. Also for fish finger sandwiches. I realise that isn’t relevant here…

As it should be, it is the performances that ensure that Creed II earns its emotional pay off. Michael B. Jordan probably can’t carry this franchise without Stallone, but he is convincing and raw here and he shares a believable and heartwarming chemistry with Tessa Thompson as his long suffering squeeze Bianca. Elsewhere, the hugely anticipated return of Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago is handled magnificently and Stallone is as world weary and lovable as ever in his most famous role. It is genuinely exciting to see Drago and Rocky together. Two characters who were just as influential to me growing up as ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’. Those guys were in everything.

The best moments from the Rocky franchise have never been about boxing. These films are about sacrifice, and family, and perseverance. If this is to be the last appearance of Rocky Balboa as Stallone claims, then Creed II is a fitting send off for a cinematic legend as well as a knockout film in its own right.

For an account of what happens when you watch four Rocky films back to back, click here.

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