By Steven Sheehan.
42 years ago Rocky Balboa was introduced to the world. He quickly became a timeless character that continues to be embraced by every new generation.
Eight films and multiple knockouts later and the formula is as powerful as ever.
The first Creed film lacked the power and character that Stallone provided so effortlessly as a director. But new director Steven Caple Jr. channels the energy that made the originals such a delight to watch.
Creed II is an emotional, entertaining throwback to the fundamentals that make Rocky films so great: family, passion and brutal, bloody boxing matches.
If you don’t know already then the Russian monster from Rocky IV is back. But this time he’s brought his beast of a son with him.
Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) lost everything after being beaten by Rocky back in 1985. His wife, career, and country went down the drain. Now he hopes his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), can bring back the glory days.
Meanwhile, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) has not only won the Heavyweight title but is set to become a father with wife-to-be Bianca (Tessa Thompson).
Viktor Drago puts himself forward to challenge for the title. It’s a fight Adonis can’t refuse given Ivan killed his father when they fought back in Rocky IV.
Rocky wants nothing to do with it after all he went through. Adonis faces Viktor but things don’t go to plan. There’s a chance of a re-match and the question is, will Rocky face down his demons to be there for Adonis?
If you’ve seen any Rocky film before then you know what comes next. Except, that’s no bad thing, because as predictable as the story is, it hits all the right spots.
By the time the final fight arrives you are riding the punches with Adonis. And when the Rocky theme finally strikes up you are ready to punch the air yourself.
The emotional manipulation is in good effect, but it works like a charm. It lays to rest some ghosts and appears to finally pass the baton on from one legend to another in the making.
While the focus is on Adonis and his journey, there is some sympathy shown for Ivan. But just as he was used by his country, it seems he is doing the same to his own son.
Creed II is essentially the greatest hits of the Rocky franchise. Given it was written by Stallone the nostalgia should come as no surprise.
When it comes the fighting you feel every punch land. Although it is perhaps more of a drama and reminiscent of the 1976 original in that respect.
Stallone was born to play this role and his hound dog eyes and slurred speech provide instant character. Tessa Thompson isn’t given much to do but when on screen she adds real empathy.
Michael B. Jordan has more depth to his role this time. He’s a character you can believe in and the rightful heir to the throne.
What Creed II has achieved is a rare feat. It manages to be better than the original and looks set to remain undefeated for some time yet.
Creed II opens nationwide in UK cinemas on Friday 30th November