By: Kirk Jackson
The highly anticipated sequel packed quite the punch cinematically and across the box office, earning over $55 million across Thanksgiving opening weekend (Wed-Sun).
The eighth installment in the Rocky film series is directed by Steven Caple Jr., and written by Sylvester Stallone and Cheo Hodari Coker.
The sequel picks up right where its predecessor left off. Adonis Creed, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan, realizes his manifest destiny, capturing the world heavyweight title and matching a feat his father accomplished more than three decades prior.
Photo Credit: Creed 2 Facebook Page
But while earning the world title and defeating the champion and pound-for-pound no. 1 Danny ‘Stuntman’ Wheeler – portrayed by former multi-division world champion and pound-for-pound ruler Andre Ward, a sense of emptiness resides within Adonis as he does not feel solidified as champion. He is still searching for his defining moment and to escape his father’s shadow.
While searching for validation and seeking long-term solidarity with his longtime girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a new threat linked to his father and to his mentor/adoptive uncle Rocky Balboa (Stallone) lies in wait to seek redemption and their own collective form of validation.
The father/son duo of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is that threat rehashing old wounds and serving as the key point of the validation for Adonis professionally and personally.
What viewers typically encounter with a sequel is a continuation of the first film; an extension of the formula that made the prior entry successful. Creed II presents some elements from the previous installment, but adds additional components as well.
While certain parts of the film are predictable; early success, then failure and adversity of the protagonist, mind-blowing training montages, the love story element between central characters and the conclusion of the story ending with the final pugilistic showdown.
However, although parts of the film are predictable, as a viewer there is still a sense of anticipation because like previous Rocky films, the story reaches your emotions and you develop connections with the characters.
This is a testament to the writing and the talent of the actors emotionally luring viewers into the scope of the story. The acting across the board is great and there is great chemistry amongst the characters. Jordan continues to display why he is regarded as one of Hollywood’s brightest young talents.
I didn’t physically feel the punches Adonis ate throughout the course of the film, but emotionally I felt it as I cringed watching some of the thudding punches land. I winced watching Adonis and other characters stumble from horrific body shots and I cheered when Adonis landed punches.
As a viewer, it’s easy to relate to his pain and to the struggles of not only Adonis, but of Rocky, Ivan, Viktor or anyone in the story.
The visuals of the film are amazing. The shots of different locations ranging from the streets of Philadelphia, the sunny landscape of Los Angeles, the view overseas across Eastern Europe, the sweltering pavements of the final training area for Adonis (I believe New Mexico), the authentic boxing gyms and glamorous arenas showcasing these bouts were certainly aesthetically pleasing.
Another noteworthy aspect of this film is it delves into the psychology of a fighter and the psychological effects of fighting; the mental wars fighters endure before, during and after the fight. The negative, lingering effects it can have on family along with the importance of a strong support system.
There is an emphasis of importance towards the mental aspect of fighting; facing various emotions such as fear, doubt, loneliness, vulnerability, anxiety and a whirlwind of other emotions that are not often discussed while analyzing a boxing match.
The intricacies and various aspects of preparation for the fight; attending matters of the family and dealing with issues that can serve as distractions. If mentally unprepared, not only can you lose the bout, but can lose your life, or life as you know it.
Creed II illustrates the realities of fighting from a psychological aspect and provides the viewer food for thought.
Creed II contains a heavy play on nostalgia; as the central themes of this movie revolve around loose ends from the aftermath of Rocky IV, while similar plots are borrowed from that storyline but also from Rocky II and Rocky III.
Although this is a common trend we see with remakes or wide-spaced re-entries and continuations of a long-lasting film series. Paying homage by leaving Easter eggs, clues referencing the past and catering to the fan-base of that franchise.
But as mentioned earlier, there are themes and aspects of the film not necessarily dependent on the earlier Rocky entries that allow this movie to stand on its own.
Some of the themes prevalent in this film include the story of redemption, the importance of family, accountability, validation, remorse, depression, finding value within yourself and creating your own path.
Although there were predictable parts to the film, there are unexpected plot twists in which delivers poetic justice with everything coming full circle towards the conclusion of the film.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Rocky franchise, Creed II is definitely a film worth viewing as there are characters and situations anyone can relate to.