Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Screenplay: Cheo Hodari Coker, Ryan Coogler
Drama/Sports, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes
Release Date: November 21, 2018
It looks like there’s a new Creed in town.
Indeed, let’s heed our need for a Creed deed.
We’re re-introduced to Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) – the new heavyweight champion of the world. He’s just proposed to his girlfriend, hearing-impaired singer/musician Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson). But Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) history is coming back to haunt the young fighter – Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who killed Adonis’s father Apollo thirty years earlier – has raised a son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), who is threatening to take Adonis down. Rocky is scared because Viktor is an undisciplined giant and he doesn’t want a repeat of history.
So Rocky declines to help train Adonis in his match again Viktor, and the results are predictably disastrous. Adonis loses and is badly injured in the match. He heals up physically but there are psychic wounds that need attention. Rocky re-enters the scene and now sees a man with a motivation. He trains Adonis, who wins the re-match, and they all live happily ever after — or until the next sequel.
Creed II shares echoes of Rocky II with the added elements of child abandonment. Adonis is put in the same position as his late father in that he has a wife and child to take care of but is driven to fight. And, like his father before him, he doesn’t plan for the fight he’s entering into. This leads to a defeat and a retraining (with appropriate sports montage) where he must reconcile with his wife and win the final bout.
There’s also the sub-plot for the villains in this story as Ivan was abandoned by both his wife and his government after Rocky defeated him. So Ivan has trained Viktor from birth to … defeat the son of Apollo Creed? Yeah, don’t look for logic in this movie because it’s all about the fight.
And there’s a great deal of confused family drama with Adonis’s mother (played so well by the lovely Phylicia Rashad) telling him to let go of the past. And then his own daughter is born with the same hearing defect his wife has. And this is quite a strange moment in the film where both parents seem devastated by the child’s disability. I can’t fathom their concern given that Bianca has risen to amazing heights in the music profession while wearing hearing aids. I would think these parents, in particular, would be well aware that such a disability does not define their child.
Scott, this installment of the Rocky saga may be the last to feature Sylvester Stallone. And it’s a fitting end to his legacy. By the end of the film, Rocky makes amends with his son and becomes a proper grandfather as well. And Adonis seems to have reconciled his issues with his deceased father and taken on the responsibilities of fatherhood himself. There’s a scene where Rocky says “it’s your time,” which I take to mean, Stallone is passing the torch to a new generation.
Overall, while this is an entertaining sports movie (which even I enjoyed despite my distaste for boxing and other forms of fighting in sport). But it is very confusing as it takes on too much and has a very slow sagging middle.
Well said, Gregger. Creed II capitalizes on the same winning formula as the original 1976 Rocky classic and all its sequels. The familiar formula is this: There is a fighter who is an underdog, and the underdog does better than expected but is not quite good enough until he transforms into the winner he is meant to be. The underdog archetype in storytelling is as old as storytelling itself. According to the Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership, we love underdogs for four reasons: (1) we can relate to them; (2) they give us hope; (3) they provide us with the thrill of the unexpected; and (4) their victories balance the scales of justice.
This second installment of Creed is far from “increedible” but it does give Sly Stallone another opportunity to show us how our past heroes become today’s mentors. When Rocky at first refuses to mentor Adonis Creed, he is teaching the young fighter that one can’t win without possessing the right motivation to fight. During the rematch with Viktor, Rocky is there for his pupil and so of course the pupil wins. There is a B-plot to the story pointing to the importance of generational continuity, and it gives Rocky a chance to grow himself.
So we have a nice treatment of the theme of redemption, of continuity, of connection between generations and between mentor and student. They’re handled well here, even if they are portrayed in a rather predictable fashion. But then that’s the beauty of the Rocky franchise. Everything is predictable, yet somehow enjoyable.
Creed II is an enjoyable, if at times slow, telling of a return-to-victory story. I enjoyed myself and I think the audience did too. It’s not a great film, but I did enjoy watching Stallone play a more subtle, textured character in an aging Rocky. I give Creed II 3 out of 5 Reels.
I loved the mentor-mentee relationship in Creed II. As you mention, Scott, so often the retired hero comes back as the sage mentor. Adonis’ character transforms in several meaningful ways by overcoming the shadow of his father, becoming a father himself, and shedding his hubris to become a true champion. I give Adonis 4 out of 5 Heroes.
Finally, all the sports archetypes that Rocky made famous are in play. There’s the VENGEFUL FATHER, SONS FIGHTING FATHERS BATTLES, CURMUDGEONLY TRAINER, and WISE MOTHER. I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.
Creed II is not an overwhelming achievement by any stretch of the imagination, but it does deliver solid entertainment in a satisfying albeit predictable way. This film features characters that we care about and that we’ve grown to love. Greg, you’re right about Phylicia Rashad playing a new character who is the wisest Grand Mentor we’ve seen in the movies in quite some time. The familiar themes and underdog archetypes have a way of touching our souls at a deep level. I award this film 3 Reels out of 5.
As with the first Creed installment, Stallone’s character of Rocky serves a dual role of both mentor and co-hero to Creed himself, our main hero. Rocky has a journey of redemption to go on, and gets there with help from friends and allies in the story. Creed’s journey is one of personal growth that we see spring from the mythic hero’s journey. He must suffer greatly to rise to the challenge of becoming the right husband, father, son, and fighter. I give our two heroes 4 Hero points out of 5.
With regard to archetypes, we see the underdog of course, the old mentor, the estranged son, the bitter rival, the comeback, redemption, the wise grandmother. These archetypes merit an archetype score of 3 Arcs out of 5.