Ryan Coogler’s Creed was a phenomenal achievement. The film breathed new life into the dormant Rocky franchise and managed to stand apart from it in its own right. This was a tough act to follow, but Creed 2 somehow manages to meet its sky-high expectations and deliver another knockout.

Three years after his defeat at the end of the first film, Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed is back. After a successful few years, Creed finds himself as the new heavyweight champion. However, he is challenged by Victor Drago, the son of the man who killed his father 33 years earlier. This tests Creed’s relationship with fiancé Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and former champ turned trainer, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).

Creed 2 is an incredibly formulaic and predictable film. Anyone who’s seen a Rocky film can guess the direction the plot is heading right from the start. The return of Stallone to the writing team is clear as the film at times feels more like a sequel to Rocky IV than to Creed. This by no means is a bad thing, but fans of Creed may be slightly disappointed by the sequel’s potential lack of bite. Director Steven Caple Jr. lacks the visual or technical talent of Ryan Coogler. No scene is as impressive as the now iconic one-shot fight sequence in Creed.

Yet despite this, Creed 2 succeeds. It may follow a pre-established structure but it is the strength of the characters and the performances that lifts the film. Michael B Jordan is  phenomenal as the completely believable and emotionally led Adonis. Make no mistake, Creed 2 is a character driven piece and the sequel manages to develop the characters from the original film in a satisfying way.

This is perhaps best demonstrated through the return of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). His one-dimensional character from Rocky IV returns with far more depth than expected. His relationship with his son is emotionally poignant and highlights the key theme of the movie. Tessa Thompson is also great and her character is far more developed than Adrian ever was, although she is still slightly under-served by the script.

Although Stallone was more prominent in the development of the film, he is less involved on screen. The film strikes a fine balance between the naturalistic and grounded world of Coogler’s Creed and the cartoon absurdity of Rocky. There is space for emotional and grounded moments as well as ostentatious training montages and slow motion fight sequences.

Creed 2 is a lot of fun. Whilst lacking some of the magic of the original, the film has a lot of interesting character moments and uses the right amount of nostalgic iconography. Sylvester Stallone announced that this would be his final outing as Rocky. The film is a fitting end and allows Stallone to step away from the spotlight with dignity. His time has passed, now is the time for Creed.

4 Stars

Image credit: Movie DB

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