Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone, and Dolph Lundgren
Have I Seen it Before: Well, no… But I’ve seen a Rocky movie before, so in a sense, yes… But don’t let that scare you away.
Did I Like It: Yes. What’s not to like?
Highly dubious spoilers about the film to follow.
Look, even if Ryan Coogler had directed the followup to his transcendent Creed (2015), it probably wouldn’t have been quite as searingly good as the original film, and in that parallel dimension, Black Panther (2018) is directed by some lesser mortal. So, as long as we get that out of the way, Creed II is still pretty terrific. Taking the bones of the most preposterous (not necessarily bad) Rocky movie and making a familiar rehash. But if this series is the Thanksgiving dinner of movies, then I’m glad that we still get a feast every once in a while. It is a delicious meal that cannot help but make one feel good.
It’s predictability may keep it from completely blowing the paint off the walls, but it does manage to throw some curve balls. Adonis is brought low in the second act not by losing his newly won Championship Title to the antagonist, but retaining it in a fight he was well on his way to losing, had not the referee’s ruling disqualified the Baby Drago (Florian Munteanu, who with his quiet anguis may take the title of best actual-boxer to play in these movies). That’s mildly surprising, but when Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren, doing easily his best work, lurching through scenes like a coiled snake ready to pounce) throws in the towel ending the final battle between the two younger fighters, my jaw hit the ground. I would have been highly dubious if someone told me that this movie could have easily been called The Redemption of Ivan Drago, but here we are, proving once and for all that if he can change, really, truly, everyone can change.
Cue the end of the United States’ current troubles with Russia, no?
Now, Stallone recently announced (although it wouldn’t be completely out of the question to guess that he might be engaging in contract negotiations through the press) that this will be his swan song as Balboa. I think I’m okay with this. As I mentioned in my review of Creed, I kind of assumed that our last ride with the Stallion had happened years ago, and if this is it, that’s okay. It was nice to get some extra time with him. But, with that doubt in the back of my mind, it might even be better that we may have more time with him yet to come.