‘Creed II’ pairs familiar with fresh

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.

By Brandon Semler

“Creed 2” (2018) might feel formulaic to fans of the “Rocky”/”Creed” universe, but the formula is effective, and the film’s focus on its powerhouse characters makes it a dynamic entry in the series. 

The follow-up to Ryan Coogler’s 2015 film, “Creed 2” picks back up with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), a light heavyweight fighter, as he grapples with the challenge of a fight from Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed his father in the ring. 

Directed by newcomer Steven Caple Jr., with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, the film probably has more in common with “Rocky II” than any of the other sequels, despite the obvious connection to “Rocky IV” (that being Ivan Drago). Though many of the through lines are familiar, the story of Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) established in “Creed” continues, and these characters give the new series an entire life of its own. 

Caple does a good job of balancing the elements, and making the film derivative but also giving it new life. The past films are primarily stories about families and relationships that just happen to involve boxers. Caple carries that torch in “Creed II.”

The grounding performance of Thompson cannot be understated in this film.  While “Creed 2” certainly turns up the volume and heightens the reality more than the first, Thompson’s portrayal of Bianca keeps the series surprisingly down to earth, balancing out some of the added antics.  Her and Jordan’s chemistry is what gives these films their own identity and purpose. 

Jordan is brilliant as Adonis, but that should hardly be surprising at this point. He’s become one of the most talented superstars currently working.

Appearing in his eighth film in the “Rocky” universe, Stallone once again makes it known that Rocky Balboa is one of the most compelling characters on the screen in the last 50 years. Rocky’s simple wisdom — attained from the baggage we’ve seen unfold right before our eyes since 1976 — makes his relationship with Adonis one of the most rewarding elements of these new films. 

The fight scenes are a step down from Coogler’s 2015 film, but still inspire a stand-up-in-your-seat energy, and the sound design in these fights is once again top-notch. This film features some interesting coaching moments from Rocky and Drago (advising from opposite corners) that unfold during the climax. Though the larger plot points are largely predictable, the ending of the film throws in a rather poetic character moment that I was not expecting. 

If you like the “Rocky” series and “Creed,” you will probably enjoy “Creed 2.”

Status: Recommend for Fans (the “Rocky” series, “Creed,” Sports Movies).

Brandon Semler can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

Drawing by William C. Hensley

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