November 22, 2018

CINEMA | Michael B. Jordan Gets His Rematch – 'Creed II'

"Break him."
Michael B. Jordan Sylvester Stallone Steven Caple Jr. | Creed II

What makes Creed II so satisfying is how it's precisely almost nothing else but a true, full-on super sequel in the grand tradition of the enduring Rocky film franchise. Michael B. Jordan continues to cement his undeniable movie star status in what is unabashedly a direct continuation to both the first Creed and the over-the-top events of Rocky IV with more callbacks, references, and dense continuity than your average Marvel shared-universe film.

The Land director Steven Caple Jr. capably takes over for his USC classmate Ryan Coogler (an executive producer) and certainly makes his mark. While Coogler's kinetic energy and raw talent for exploring story depth through visual drama is missed, Caple very wisely refrains from trying to match his predecessor as he forges his own interpretation of the angry young boxer known as Adonis Creed.

Caple and co-writer/producer Sylvester Stallone continue to add depth to the lasting boxing story of lost fathers. If Creed was about the baggage of missing fathers, Creed II is firmly about the importance of family and fatherhood as Balboa revisits his own failings as a parent and Adonis confronts his impending familial responsibilities himself. In true Rocky fashion, this follow-up is bigger, brasher, and more absurd than its original with some wild but entertaining boxing turns.

Michael B. Jordan Sylvester Stallone Steven Caple Jr. | Creed II

The out-and-out surprise highlight is undoubtedly a very weary and worn (but still very swoll) Dolph Lundgren returning as the evil former Soviet boxing hero Ivan Drago who famously killed Apollo Creed in the ring. His redemption arc involving his also a boxer son, a very intimidating Florian Munteanu, is superbly executed calling back so many memories of Rocky past. Lundgren gets to essentially play the role Stallone occupied in the last film as the sad warrior redeeming himself through his son's successes.

Thankfully, both Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad get more to do as Adonis' strong black female support group who ground his otherwise reckless actions. Thompson is still enigmatic with a dynamic screen presence alongside Jordan who breaks the worried boxer's wife archetype through small character touches that speak volumes. Caple really builds out the sense of extended family further emphasizing the themes Coogler originally established.

Juel Taylor and Stallone's script packs in more Rocky continuity than a comic book movie with so many moments reflecting on its many predecessors. While Creed was so fresh and magical, its sequel doubles down on mining our nostalgia and reverence for such classic but dated past boxing pictures. It really takes the time to build the dramatic tensions of the Drago family and how time has worn on their legacy of athletic failure and embarrassment wrapped in a sense of masculine honour.

It's truly remarkable how Creed II pays off both its original film and the iconic but ludicrous Russian storyline of Rocky IV. It uses film history to tell a moving story of broken men fixing each other with such gravitas and more welcome African-American twists on the story that continues to prove refreshing. Jordan and Stallone bring the magic again for an incredibly satisfying sequel that's almost a knockout.


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