There’s a really engaging story in this film, and the trouble is, its not whats happening with Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan)- instead I was really interested in the silent giant Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), living a tough existence in Eastern Europe under the rough guidance of his father, former Russian champion boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren, reprising his role from Rocky IV). Their relationship is one of silences and some considerable tensions and was, to me, far more interesting. Munteanu, who I believe is a professional boxer, does a lot with his stares and frowns and while he’s built like a frightening man mountain he exhibits considerable warmth and fragility in his silences, no mean feat for a guy who’s not, I suspect, a professional actor. Had the studio behind this series had the nerve and boldness to follow the first Creed by a film titled Drago which dwelt on Viktor’s rise to success in Eastern Europe thanks to, or in spite of, his father and his father’s own ghosts, and perhaps that led to the inevitable Creed II that we have here, I would have been very happy. But the cynic in me thinks that likely smells too much like franchise building, so hey ho maybe it’s a good thing after all.
Nonetheless, the biggest weakness of Creed II is that it feels like a by-the-numbers Rocky franchise movie, lacking any of the depth, sensitivity, emotion or sense of meta-reality that the original film did. We know that Adonis Creed will have a crisis of faith, will have personal problems and doubts, and that he’ll somehow turn defeat into victory thanks to Rocky guiding him and a really cool training montage. There’s really not enough surprises here, and Viktor’s story remains the more interesting.
There is, though, a really great drinking game here- have a shot everytime you see Adonis’ girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) with a new hairstyle. You’ll be under the table before you reach the climactic fight (and consequently might be more surprised by the outcome). I usually like Tessa Thompson but something here just irritated me- likely its really the writing of her character; here she’s no longer a ‘real’ or normal person, she’s too perfect, too beautiful, a singing celebrity in her own right and far too comfortable with the millionaire lifestyle. When she’s singing some maddeningly bombastic song as she leads Adonis down to the ring for the final bout I suddenly realised that this is the one thing the ‘legend’ that is Beckham never dared- imagine Posh serenading him down the tunnel out to the wembley faithful for his last England game there. Would have brought the house down (or emptied the stadium, I’m not sure).
So anyway, Creed II was definitely a disappointment having enjoyed the first film when I finally caught up with it a little while ago. Here’s hoping any eventual Creed III turns its back on the Rocky tropes/mythology and strikes out for something new. Or failing that, lets see that Drago film.