Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becomes the heavyweight champion but has yet to face his biggest challenge. Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of his father’s boxing foe and killer Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), wants to take him on in the ring. But Adonis also faces challenges outside the ring, trying to balance his personal life and his family legacy. By his side is Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), emphasizing that nothing is more important than family – and you can’t escape your history.
An intense follow-up to the sensational 2015 “Creed,” this sequel repeats a familiar formula and has a predictable plotline. Not as electric as the first, it lacks the finesse of original writer-director Ryan Coogler, too busy with “Black Panther” (only a producer here). But this go-round benefits mainly from the conviction of the returning cast.
Michael B. Jordan nails the emotional and physical turmoil of Adonis, while Tessa Thompson gives a substantial performance as his life partner Bianca. Phylicia Rashad is also solid as Donnie’s mom and Apollo’s widow.
Then there’s the ringer – Sylvester Stallone. Without his engaging presence, you have no movie. Appearing for the eighth time as Rocky Balboa on screen, he’s the anchor, the glue, the guy not only giving sage advice but also a mesmerizing presence as this iconic character. He summons all the emotions you have associated with Rocky since the first, in 1976, and through five sequels, the last in 2006, then his triumphant re-emergence in 2015.
But the ingenious draw this time is bringing back the big bad Russians. Ivan disgraced after his loss in “Rocky 1V,” who lost everything in his motherland. Now the father of a boxing brute in the Ukraine, Viktor is hungry to take on Adonis, rivalries are resurrected, and the melodrama is escalated. How Shakespearean it all is, and real Romanian boxer Florian Munteanu is a hulking beast! He and Lundgren are convincing as the pair desperate for redemption.
No spoilers here, and there are a few enjoyable appearances from past movies. Nevertheless, "Creed II" packs quite a punch in its boxing sequences and essential training montages. We must wait for the legendary theme music but when it soars, it is still as glorious as ever.
The new episode is a sentimental crowd-pleaser that emphasizes fathers and sons, and family legacies. It tugs on heart strings – thanks to Stallone’s work on the screenplay – with relationships remaining the heart of the film.