Creed II – Movie Review – An emotionally rich sequel.

2015’s Creed is my favourite sports film of all time. It’s a film that impressed me with it’s solid direction and emotional drama, but above all else it inspired me strongly in a number of different ways. I have been anticipating the sequel ever since it was announced and with a new Director at the helm taking over from Ryan Coogler, I was curious to see whether Creed II could stand toe to toe (pound for pound if you will) alongside the original.

This sequel once again follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as he enters a new chapter of his life with his partner Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Whilst presented with many obstacles to overcome in his personal life, everything becomes amplified with the sudden arrival of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the family responsible for the death of his father who have now come to challenge him for the Heavyweight title.

Creed II manages to accomplish what every stellar sequel does. It presents new ways to challenge the protagonist that extended beyond what was achieved in the original film. I am extremely impressed by Juel Taylor and Sly Stallone’s script because it doubled down on the emotional drama, presenting a wide array of plot threads ranging from his relationship with Rocky, to Bianca’s pregnancy, to dealing with the pressure of Drago’s arrival and more. All of that provoked a large range of emotions from myself as a viewer and the rest of the audience I saw the film with. The drama felt very palpable which made the characters feel like real people struggling with very real issues, that some people unfortunately have to undertake in life. Not only that but the story very impressively managed to hide a couple of surprises up it’s sleeve, in terms of the structure of the narrative and where it was going as the story progressed. It’s not as simple and cliche as you’d expect it to be and I loved that. About a quarter of the way in, I realised the story was doing something I didn’t expect, which left the door open for the remainder of the film to be a little less predictable than I thought it would be. It was very exciting. I also have to commend the script for challenging me to think about the struggles of both adulthood and fatherhood, due to it’s excellent exploration of those themes within the story.

Director Steven Caple Jr. does as good a job here as Ryan Coogler did with the first film. It was a pleasant surprise to see an up and coming filmmaker like himself effortlessly balance all the drama of the narrative, in such a way that created an incredible cinema experience. You’ll want to see this film with a crowd if possible. My audience laughed, cheered, gasped and cried together it was an experience I won’t forget for quite some time. Steven handles the films more intimate moments with a level of patience that helps the scenes play out at a steady pace, so the actors can really draw out some fantastic performances. Then once it gets to the boxing sequences he helms them with a level of confidence that really shines through on the screen. I have to also mention the entrance sequences for the fights are amazing, they truly get you on the edge of your seat and music selection for those scenes were perfect.

Speaking of music, both Ludwig Goransson’s musical score and the Mike Will Made-It produced soundtrack complemented the film flawlessly. Ludwig’s score helped enrich the scenes of drama, whereas Mike Will’s soundtrack came in at the perfect moments to amplify the energy of the scenes in which the music was featured.

If you’ve seen the first film (and Black Panther from earlier this year) then you probably already know how talented of an actor Michael B. Jordan is, but even as a huge admirer of his I was still very impressed with his performance here. On a physical level he’s even leaner than he was in the first film, which ironically ends up making him look more like a boxer than most professional boxers do. On a dramatic level he really manages to pull the dialogue off the page and convey it on screen in such a raw manner, which makes it both deeply emotional and believable. He deserved awards recognition for his performance in the first Creed but he was snubbed. Unfortunately I think the same will happen to him for his performance in this sequel.

Tessa Thompson gets even more to do within the confines of this narrative, her character is dealing with a couple issues of her own which I won’t spoil, but the inclusion of those personal problems allow Tessa to shine and flex how good of a dramatic actor she is too. Sly Stallone gives arguably an even more emotionally touching performance in this film than he did in the first. It’s a solid reminder that although we often associate Sly with bombastic action movies, he is still a very talented and nuanced actor when given the right material. I like how the narrative beats written for Rocky progressed from the foundations of the story beats from first, rather than repeating them. One of the bigger shocks in terms of the performances came from Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu as Ivan and Viktor Drago. The script fleshes these characters out to a degree that humanises them and makes them far more than just the antagonists of the story. We learn how the events from the previous Rocky films have impacted Ivan’s life. From that I felt a surprising amount of empathy for him and his son, as their motivations were clear and completely understandable, which made the drama between the Drago’s and Creed all the more compelling.

As someone who loves the first, I’m pleased to say that I found this sequel to be just as inspiring for a number of reasons. There’s many impactful moments that overwhelmed me with emotion and the training montage this time round, felt a little more unique in it’s execution and effectiveness.

Creed II is among the greatest sequels ever made. It’s as simple as that. The narrative surprised me, the performances are outstanding. The range of emotions this story made me experience were overwhelming in the best of ways. It was an incredible viewing experience. It was a tall order to expect Creed II to be close to the same level as the first, but I actually believe this sequel may be even better.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

(5 Stars out of 5)

-T. Graham.

Creed II – Starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr.

Now showing in cinemas.

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