Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent
There is something inspiring about the Rocky franchise, be it the story behind its creation or the onscreen drama it has entertained audiences with over its 40- plus-year history. Whether it is the acclaimed highs of the original 1976 sports classic or Ryan Coogler’s superb 2015 reboot/sequel, the equally drama-driven sequels Rocky II and Rocky Balboa, the montage-heavy fun of Rocky III and IV or the franchise low blow that was Rocky V, this series has taken an interesting path over the last four decades but all good things must come to an end…or must they?
Creed II follows Coogler’s first film and essentially continues the story of Rocky IV too, as it sees the late Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) now reigning supreme as Heavyweight Champion, alongside his loyal manager/mentor/friend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). But old wounds are re-opened with the arrival of a ferocious new challenger for Adonis’ crown in Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who infamously killed Adonis’ father Apollo in the ring. As this old rivalry is rekindled for a new generation, these families are forced to recognise what is really important and what is worth fighting for.
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We have fresh spins on the age-old montage and the fights themselves (while inevitable in outcome) are well delivered and gripping accompaniments to the surrounding family drama. The sub-plots involving Adonis’s family and the overcoming of disability barriers regarding his wife’s progressive hearing loss make for gripping viewing, as does the Drago story which sees a young man trained by vengeance and forged by the fires of his fathers infamous loss. Then you also have Ivan and Rocky’s own fears and regrets coming into play, and it is a nice balance of old and new.
Stallone is, of course, brilliant as his character must face his past in more ways than one, while Jordan is once again both electrifying but also delicate when the story calls for, as the proud but more scared than he realises Adonis. There is strong supporting work by the returning Dolph Lundgren too, as well as Florian Munteanu, whose character is forced to live with the effects of his father’s defeat, grief and regret. A terrific Tessa Thompson, as Adonis’s supportive wife Bianca, gets many moments to shine, as does an absolutely brilliant Phylicia Rashad as Adonis’ mum Mary, who is arguably the strongest and most perceptive character in the entire film.
Overall, while its construction may be predictable, Creed II is a strong entry in the series. Sylvester Stallone has announced that this film will be the last time he plays Rocky and if this indeed his retirement, then he goes out with a win. Kids, it’s your time now!
Creed II (12A)
Director: Steven Caple, Jr.
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu
Release Date: Out Now
Creed II, 5th January 2019, 12:55 PM