Plot: After a split decision loss in a fight seen all over the world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) proved he was more than a last name and since then, has rattled off a chain of wins inside the squared circle. With Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) still in his corner, Creed even challenges for the world championship and is triumphant, a moment that should be pure elation. But Creed’s celebration is derailed by talk of the former champ being over the hill and his earlier wins being against lesser opponents, so while he has the belt, Creed still feels like he needs prove himself. Then he learns that a Russian fighter has been on an absolute tear and wants a title shot, but this is no normal boxer, instead it is Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Viktor is the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis’ father in the ring, so this challenge is one he feels he cannot refuse. But while he is adamant, those around him advise against it and fear he could face the same fate as his father. Will Adonis step into the ring with Viktor and if so, can he exorcise the demons of his family’s past or is he doomed to repeat the past and not know when to let go?
Entertainment Value: Creed was a hit with critics and audiences, blending nostalgia for the Rocky series with a fresh vision that felt right at home in the franchise, no easy task, to be sure. While Creed II isn’t able to maintain that level, it is a rock solid sequel and again, a good fit for both continuing the Creed series and as part of the larger Rocky framework as well. The narrative is more complicated this time around, with focus split between the big showdown, Creed’s mental health, his relationships, and more, which hurts the overall flow of the movie. I think a lot of scenes between Creed and Bianca slow down the pace and I’d have rather seen more of the Creed/Rocky dynamic or more of the Creed/Drago rivalry featured. I know that the Bianca thread is emphasized to flesh out Creed as a character, but it feels forced and drawn out, whereas the original Rocky films had a great balance in Adrian’s role. This sequel also dials up the nostalgia and sentiment to another level, which some will appreciate and others will bemoan, but as a Rocky fan, I had fun with all the callbacks. I think Creed II runs too long and tries to do too much, but it still works when it counts and the Creed/Rocky/Drago elements are strong, so there’s a lot to like here. If you’re a fan of Creed, Rocky, or boxing cinema in general, you’ll want to give this one a spin.
The cast of Creed II is deep and talented, with a selection of terrific performances that continues the standard established in the first movie. Michael B. Jordan has the lead and his effort here is quite good, but can be tough to root for him, as his attitude is kind of all over the place. A little self doubt is fine and works well for this kind of character, but Jordan has to balance some strange character turns, some of which border on making him unlikable. I understand the emotion and resentment Creed carries, but it is layered on much heavier this time around. I still think the role works and Jordan’s turn is good, but not as effective as the first picture. Sylvester Stallone still has some magic left in the role of Rocky Balboa, as he is able to shine in his moments, but let the spotlight go elsewhere when it needs to. I think it says a lot that Stallone put so much into his performances in the Creed series, always making sure to supplement the movie, not be the focal point. Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu are excellent in Creed II, I just wish they had more screen time. I’d much rather have watched that relationship flesh out than the overdone Creed/Bianca segments. The cast here also includes Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson, Milo Ventimiglia, and Brigitte Nielsen.
The Disc: Creed II was released in a 4k edition from Warner Brothers and as expected, this is a phenomenal presentation. The image is always super clean and razor sharp, with the kind of dazzling depth you want from 4k. That means the tiniest details are crystal clear and the visuals just have a superb level of refinement, a marked step up over the also included Blu-ray disc. The colors are natural, contrast is even handed, and I saw no issues that dampened the experience. The extras include a quick look back at the Rocky franchise, a few promotional featurettes, and some interesting and worthwhile deleted scenes.