Creed II is a Knockout


Barry Wetcher/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Coming from a stereotypical American family, I was raised to appreciate the classic boxing cinematic masterpieces known as the “Rocky” movies. When “Creed” came out in 2015, I loved the reboot’s careful integration of past plotlines and characters and its success in creating a modern version of the classic boxing movies. I was even more excited for the release of “Creed II” on Nov. 21, expecting a successful further development of “Creed’s” plot.

Opening three years after the loss to “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, “Creed II” immediately showcases that Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has come a long way. He now has a number of pro wins to his name and earns the WBC World Heavyweight Championship in the movie’s first 10 minutes. Creed has grown emotionally as well as physically: him and Rocky Balboa have never been closer, his relationship with Bianca Taylor has become more permanent, and a new addition to their little family adds an emotional and sweet touch of fatherhood to the film. The conflict in this sequel hits home even harder than in the first movie — Creed’s new challenger Viktor Drago is the son of Ivan Drago, who killed the beloved Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV”  during a fight and was later defeated in the ring by Rocky himself. The loss caused him and his son to be thrown in the streets and exiled by the people of Russia and their own family, and they have returned for revenge and to salvage their family name and dignity.

There’s no sugar-coating the fact that the movie quite fits the formula of a typical sports film: there’s an ego-threatening loss, a dramatic training sequence and an epic victory in the end. However, all the stereotypes are delivered well and with more depth than normal, so they are easily forgiven and do not prevent the viewer from leaving the theater on an adrenaline rush and ready to pick up their own pair of boxing gloves.

My favorite details of the movie include Ivan and Viktor Drago’s emotional complexity, Creed developing “something to fight for,” and the return of so many characters and storylines from the “Rocky” movies and “Creed.” Ivan Drago’s original actor (Dolph Lundgren) playing the part again brings back all the old feelings of “Rocky IV” and him and Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) on-screen chemistry is incredible and full of tension. The tie-ins to previous installments are even as simple as Creed winning his black Mustang back, but all the details add to the already emotional plot and make it even more special. The fact that this movie spends so much screen time on Viktor Drago alone makes it clear he is no ordinary opponent. The movie emphasizes how he was raised solely to fight and to win, but also dives deeper into him and his father’s lives in Russia so that there is more sympathy felt for him than any previous villain in these movies. However, Creed gains something in this movie that gives him the strongest reason to fight and creates even more pressure on him to win. 

The emphasis on legacy, family and strength in “Creed II” and its incredible new and returning actors combine to make an emotional rollercoaster of a movie that leaves its viewers feeling empowered and triumphant even though it follows a stereotypical format for a sports action movie. Anyone who loves the “Rocky” movies like me, and even those who don’t, should watch these reboots for their stand-alone quality feel-good story.