Miracles abound in ‘Creed II’, the second in the spinoff ‘Creed’ series and eighth (8th!!???) in the overall ‘Rocky’ universe.
First off, the fact that this franchise is still standing is absolutely unbelievable – what should’ve been flattened back in 1990 with the lackluster ‘Rocky 5’ was given a heartfelt jolt of energy with 2006’s ‘Rocky Balboa’, then really boosted with the shockingly great ‘Creed’ three years ago. Even more amazing is that, despite the wear and tear, these movies seem to keep getting BETTER – ‘Creed II’ is a slick, touching and completely original offering that gives longtime fans of ‘Rocky’ a nice dash of nostalgia without beating a dead punching bag.
But the biggest miracle of all? Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago. Once a cartoonish Cold War villain, ‘Creed II’ shines an equal spotlight on what the big, bad boxer has been up to since his crushing defeat to Balboa more than 30 years ago, and, well…..by golly, I actually have a lick of empathy for him.
It’s true – Drago has depth.
In ‘Creed II’, Michael B. Jordan’s titular character, Adonis Creed, is confronted with the ultimate challenge – Viktor Drago (Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago who, as you’ll likely recall, killed his father Apollo Creed in the ring before he was born. Adonis’ manager, Sly Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, is reluctant to take the fight, as visions of Apollo dying in his arms still haunt him. And despite the fact that Rocky famously upset the hulking Russian in a follow up grudge bout, the name ‘Drago’ still obviously gives the Italian Stallion nightmares. (“He broke things in me that ain’t never been fixed.”)
Despite the usual ‘Rocky’ blueprint – and really, would you want this thing to go any other way? – the screenplay, by Stallone, Juel Taylor and a handful of others, actually takes a swerve or two. It’s still emotional in all the right places, ridiculously exciting when that ring bell tolls, and, as previously mentioned, sentimental to the material that preceded it. It’s evident that director Steven Caple Jr. has a lot of love for all things ‘Rocky’ – this picture is unbelievably faithful to WHY the franchise totally ticks, including some of the silly implausibilities, yet….like ‘Creed’….is extremely polished. Somehow, with Caple Jr.’s steady hand, he manages to change history and make ‘Rocky IV’ appear as a better film that it really was. (It WAS made during the MTV era, after all.)
‘Creed II’ is everything you want it to be, and then some. And it ain’t every day I’ll say THIS about a series serving up it’s eighth chapter, but another sequel is not only inevitable……it’s inviting.
Hmmm. I wonder if Mr. T’s Clubber Lang has a son.