After winning the heavyweight championship, Adonis Creed must face his toughest test: Ivan Drago’s son Viktor.
Hits All The Notes It Aims For;
While Avoiding Traps.
When I finally saw Creed early this year, I kicked myself for having waited a few years, as I always had a soft spot for the Rocky franchise as a whole. For me, this ranks up there as one of the best sequels in that universe, taking a formula that has been working for three decades and adding enough to it to really drive it home. It’s interesting, because when I first saw the teaser trailer I couldn’t help but think it sounded lazy. Oh, sure, as a way to give us another boxing movie, now we get Apollo Creed’s kid vs Ivan Drago’s kid. Turns out, even if it was an easy route to take, it is well-written, very human, and actually gives the audience a few surprises along the way.
Steven Caple Jr takes over the director’s chair from Ryan Coogler, and they were big shoes to fill. Though I’m sure it helped to have Stallone there as the ever-present anchor in the series, he does a fine job, never allowing himself to be swallowed up by the aura of such an iconic franchise. The family scenes are filmed with love and care and the fight scenes feel every bit as big as glitzy as they are supposed to. The training montage, a staple of Rocky films, is one of my favorites in the film, in part because it feels different from all the others (and makes a lot of sense within the story), and also delivers some great individual shots.
The acting is good all-around, from the old generation to the new. Michael B Jordan is strong and confident, but also brash and vulnerable. He is put in a bad mental position with the idea of fighting the son of the man who killed his father, and walks a fine line nicely. Tessa Thompson (who, by the way, is having a great year between this, Westworld, Annihilation and Sorry to Bother You is having an amazing year) compliments him perfectly, willing to be his rock but also push him, and always knows when to be in which mode, conveying everything on screen effortlessly. I enjoyed seeing Dolph Lundgren again, and thought the arc with him and his son was a great addition to the script. Seeing the “villain” humanized really goes a long way to delivering emotional impact when it was needed most.
Family is the major thread running through the script, and it really helps lift this from more typical sports film territory. Creed has a reason to fight, and layers are added to raise the stakes for him and those around him. For me, these additions came off as genuine rather than cheesy or forced and the generational, family dynamic created some great parallels and callbacks that make the film shine through as much more than a boxing movie. The fights are edited well, looking more like real boxing matches than the old Rocky movies, and Caple Jr finds ways to shoot certain things in those fights that help distinguish them from past entries.
This is the kind of film that’s going to give you exactly what you want out of it, and possibly more than you expect. I highly recommend checking it out, especially before the major rush of December movies start flooding theaters!