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Creed II: Triumphant despite the odds

December 12, 2018 - Wednesday 5:12 PM by Ethan Reyes

If one were to poorly describe the Rocky film series it would be this: 6 movies of muscular men boxing with awe-inspiring training montages in between.

Starting with the beloved 1976 film Rocky, which launched the career of popular 80’s action star Sylvester Stallone, the Rocky series has been nothing short of iconic. References to the Rocky films have been a staple in popular culture; from Mr. T’s iconic catchphrase “I pity the fool” to training montages set to Survivor’s “Eye of Tiger” (which had been used by our very own Manny Pacquiao for his ring entrances.)

After the ‘alleged’ last Rocky film was released in 2006, Rocky Balboa, director Ryan Coogler had decided to continue the Rocky franchise with Creed, an offshoot film focused on the son of Rocky’s best friend, the flamboyant Apollo Creed. Coogler, who directed Black Panther after Creed, admitted that this film served as a ‘conduit’ or a ‘symbol’ as to what happened to him and his own father. Thus it came at no surprise that Creed, much like the original Rocky, was more of a character drama in which its main characters, Rocky and Adonis Creed, both deal with relational gaps missing within their lives.

And since the 2015 film Creed was met with box-office success, it also comes to no surprise that a sequel was on its way. And what better way to make a sequel than to make it about a blood-feud between the next generation? Creed II follows a fight between Adonis Creed and the son of Ivan Drago, the Russian boxer who had killed Adonis’ father, Apollo Creed.

Creed II, which premiered in the Philippines during the last week of November, is a sequel that almost eclipses its own predecessor. Although it was Ryan Coogler who had initially sparked the Creed  franchise, the directing credits fell to 30 year-old Steven Caple Jr. another young director who came from the same generation as Coogler.

    The interesting thing about Creed II is that it is a film that does not require a viewer to have seen any of the previous Rocky films or even the first Creed movie. Important elements of the story such as the tragic death of Adonis Creed’s father in the hands of Ivan Drago are carefully explained without seeming too expository. There are scenes in which we see Adonis actually looking at fight scenes from Rocky IV. Furthermore, we learn more about Rocky’s predicament about not being able to contact his estranged son.

    Despite the film’s destiny to become more grandiose as compared to its predecessor, the film does not dawdle in its own grandiosity. We see more into Adonis’ personal life through his relationship with his girlfriend, Bianca Taylor. Which, like in the original Rocky films with Rocky’s relationship with Adrian, becomes a focal point in his decisions for the future.

And so, we see  that Adonis is marred by both his past (fighting to avenge his father) and future (being able to live for his child) which then becomes one of the main sources of tension within the film. The film handles this tension masterfully through Michael B. Jordan’s brilliant performance as Adonis. From his arguments with his girlfriend, to his temporary fall-out with his mentor, Rocky, Adonis is portrayed as humanly as possible.

However, not everything is as star-spangled as Adonis’ ring shorts. Due to Creed II’s emphasis on Adonis’ character and the people around him, the film does not flesh out his rival’s character enough. Viktor Drago, Ivan Drago’s son, was not given enough screen time to fully form his character. Which resulted in Viktor not having enough of his character shown for him to be seen as a true rival on the same level as Adonis Creed.

Despite this, Viktor Drago (played by Florian Munteanu) shows much of his grit and character in what little scenes that he has. Accompanied by the intimidating Ivan Drago, who is still played by Dolph Lundgren, Viktor’s presence haunts both Rocky and Adonis throughout the film. And in true Rocky fashion, Adonis deals with this looming presence in the only way he can, a beautifully crafted training montage scene with an equally marvellous overture by Swedish Film Composer, Ludwig Goransson.

Creed II is a love letter, not to boxing fans, but to fans of the Rocky series. The film contains all sorts of homages to the original series through its themes and recurring characters. And despite Viktor’s lack of development within the film, we are being poised to expect more from his character in the possible sequels or even spin-offs that may involve the Dragos.

Overall, achieving the same heights as Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a tall task, and despite a couple of hiccups, Steven Caple Jr.’s Creed II was almost there. Perhaps without knowledge of the previous Rocky films, Creed II would not have been as effective. However, as a sequel to a sequel to an already legendary series, Creed II does not fail. It is an excellent tribute to the Rocky franchise, and much like Rocky, much like Adonis, Creed II fights back; despite the odds, it triumphs.

Ethan’s rating: 7.5/10