In the past year, I have seen three times as many Rocky and Rocky-related movies than I have previously seen in my entire life. I saw Rocky IV years ago, but this year I saw the original Rocky and watched the first Creed last week in anticipation of the new Creed II.
And hey, the new one is a spiritual sequel to Rocky IV!
Things are looking up for Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). He ties up a loose end of sorts from the first movie and wins the heavyweight championship. His relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is going very well, and his father figure Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is back in good health. However, there is something coming on the horizon: Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) never got over his defeat at the hands of Rocky in Mother Russia, and has raised a son of his own to make up for all that he lost after his defeat at Balboa’s hands.
So, yeah, Adonis is challenged by Victor Drago (Florian Munteanu), and he accepts a fight that could possibly kill him in the ring as it did for his father just when Donny has the most to actually lose.
Steven Caple Jr takes over the directing duties for Ryan Coogler, and while he doesn’t do anything wrong here, his movie doesn’t quite have the energy of Coogler’s earlier film. But as Coogler’s movie was basically about a young man proving himself in a manner similar to his surrogate father Rocky, here we see more a movie about generations with the Dragos, the Creeds, and even the Balboas as Rocky has a subplot of his own involving his son. Heck, Wood Harris gets more to do in this one as the son of Apollo’s trainer, here helping to train Adonis, and Phylicia Rashad likewise has more to do this time around as Apollo’s widow and Donny’s mother.
Perhaps best of all, the movie actually gives Lundgren a chance to actually be more than just a cartoon villain. He has far more lines than he did the first time around, and the movie does establish a relationship between the two Dragos that may not make them entirely sympathetic, but it does make their actions understandable. Stallone gives another sweet performance, and Thompson and Jordan continue to demonstrate a strong relationship. It may not be as good as the first Creed, but it’s still a really good time at the movies. 8.5 out of 10 surprise cameos from the Rocky series.