Often, we see franchises that stretch beyond a fifth and sixth film begin to lose their luster. A perfect example would be the Fast & Furious saga, but the difference is with that saga the fifth film saves the franchise and ultimately reinvents it. Creed was that reinvention to the slowly diminishing Rocky Franchise. And with the massive success Creed brought back to this franchise, it’s only natural a sequel would get greenlit. Sometimes the encore is better than the main event, that isn’t the case regarding Creed II. There is just something missing from the second Creed film that doesn’t quite live up to the first.
As far as sequels go, Creed II is still a damn good film, but with star director Ryan Coogler getting snatched up by Marvel Studios; his main focus was on Black Panther. That said, this gives the perfect opportunity for an up and comer (Just like Coogler was) to make his or her mark in Hollywood. And what better franchise to sink your teeth in and go twelve rounds than a revitalized Rocky / Creed franchise.
Losing Ryan’s direction, writing and execution is felt immediately when the film begins. The score and music are something that is off in this second Creed film. In Creed, the music alone can pump the adrenaline through your veins making you believe you could lace up those sneakers and step in the ring. That type of adrenaline rush was missing throughout as Ludwig is able to build on the previous scene with his use of the trumpets and drum kits in the first film. That fire wasn’t the same in 2 as the music is only relevant in the training montage and the final fight.
“You know, there’s only three steps into that ring. Just three. And tonight, it’s going to look as high as a mountain. And when you climb through them ropes, it’s going to be the loneliest place in the world because you’re going to be in there with another fighter who wants to take you out. So now, you got to ask yourself, are you here to prove something to other people, or prove something to yourself?”
The story makes complete sense with where the franchise would go after Creed. Donnie (Michael B. Jordan)becomes heavyweight champion, and rightly so. He has Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in his corner. Him and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are ready to take the next steps in their relationship; all is good on the home front. While elsewhere, former Soviet superstar Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has been training his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to take on Donnie when the timing becomes right to seek revenge for being excommunicated by their home country.
Creed II follows in the footsteps of pretty much all sequels. It appears larger in scale due to a bigger budget ($10 million more) but this film still feels very much grounded. The character development is on par with the first even with Coogler not on the project. Stallone, who pens the screenplay this time around is able to keep the essence of these characters in line with how they were first introduced. To be fair, this is Stallone’s world, after all. Michael B. Jordan brings that same fury and passion to every scene that fuels Donnie to be his own man and not be compared to his father. His battle with his identity is just as compelling as he figures out the type of man he needs to be for his family.
If there was ever a way to complete Rocky’s story arc it’s done in this capacity. He has struggled with his family life for some time now and that’s mostly due to his fear of failure. Frankly, he’s been a coward unable to face the reality, but he finally is able to face his fears. To see his story come full circle is satisfying when all said and done. Tessa and Michael have this amazing chemistry together whenever they are on screen. The pain they both feel for their daughter is heartbreaking and Tessa brings that sadness out in her character work and performance. Their relationship is comparable to Rocky and Adrian’s where the two have their struggles but they are 100% on each other’s sides.
There’s one way to strike fear in Donnie’s eyes, it’s with Viktor Drago. He is an absolute tank of a human and it took little time for Viktor to break Donnie’s body and ego. Ivan’s motivation almost feels like he wants his son to do what he did to Apollo. It’s as if Ivan is attempting to relive his glory through Viktor. Florian, despite having very little to say on screen has a massive looming presence throughout the film. Even when he’s not on screen you can feel him in the background, stalking his prey.
“Listen, be there for him, take care of him, give him your love. But also, you got to realize he’s in a place right now that only he can get himself out of.”
The runtime is perfect for a sports film of this manner. The pacing is consistent throughout the film never falling off track. The only downfall was jumping right into Donnie and Viktor’s first fight pretty quickly, but it doesn’t affect the overall feeling this film brings. The editing is stellar with the camera captures all angles possible from each fight.
The cinematography for each fight is beautifully shot along with that pretty epic training montage. Each fight is choreographed perfectly, each jab, uppercut and haymaker are felt once landed. I felt like my ribs cracked with each punch to the gut. What’s a Rocky film if there’s no training montage? Michael B has this way of drawing us in to make it feel like we are in the fight with him. Yes, we want him to win and get his revenge for his Father’s death, but we also want him to break free from what holds back his true potential. Michael has something to prove and he does that even if he shuts everyone out, he is likeable enough to continue to root for.
Overall, Creed II is a great follow up to the first, but it misses Ryan Coogler’s writing, execution and direction. The score is also missing that adrenaline rush to it that the first one had. Creed II triumphs with its characters and their developments and arc’s as well as the cinematography and how the fights are choreographed. All performances are well executed and beautifully impactful. If I were to rate Creed II, I’d rate it a 3.95 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen Creed II and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Creed II is directed by Stephen Caple Jr. is Rated PG-13 and has an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Creed II was released on November 21th, 2018 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes. Creed II can be bought by online retailers such as iTunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.
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