Creed II (2018)
Sequels and boxing movies fall in about the same risk area for me. For every Raging Bull or Creed, there are plenty of duds; and the same can be said for sequels of any kind. Ralph Breaks the Internet fed into pop culture clip show area where Paddington 2 was a unique artistic endeavor adding style to tradition. Creed II (aka Son of Widowmaker, or Daddy Issues the Movie) manages to build upon its predecessor’s strengths while forming a clear narrative for the continuation of a legend. With Ryan Coogler moving along to new projects, indie director Steven Caple Jr. (The Land) tackles Coogler’s path with his first blockbuster and does not disappoint. Though the dialogue is lacking at times, seemingly being ad libbed with everyday platitudes or aggressive phrases, the story is the highlight of Creed II.
Bringing back the Drago clan of earlier Rocky villainy, Adonis Creed–living up to his name and heritage with the spectacular and thirst inducing Michael B Jordan–faces off against Viktor Drago (fellow thirst trap Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu) in a generational grudge match that brings up four layers of familial disappointment and trauma. Jordan loses some of the character building opportunities that made him my favorite male lead of 2015 in the first movie, but his loving affection for fiancee Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and anxiety about becoming a father allow for more than a boxer to showcase in his role. His physicality is astonishing, flying through the fights with painful authenticity. Sylvester Stallone in his eighth go at the famed Philadelphian stumbles compared to his best ever performance in the previous film, but his guilt in Apollo Creed’s death cements the film in the Balboa history; those Russian animosities are already firmly reinvigorated in the audience. The ladies again stun with Tessa Thompson expanding upon the musician facing worsening hearing loss with hereditary and career concerns mounting and Phylicia Rashad as a mother at the end of suffering the hubris of adult men.
The fight scenes and rhythm are tremendous in this film, and the sound is stunning. A swimming pool scene cut with sometimes submerged conversation between mother and fiancee was exemplary. Individual scenes were brilliantly executed, particularly the engagement and the first dinner scene beautifully introduced the family struggles for the film. A bunch of action, a bit of romance, a fantastic ability to stand alone as a movie, Creed II makes you invested in the fights in and out of the ring.