Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’re bound to have witnessed the hype around Creed II. Off the breakthrough success of the film’s predecessor, Creed II delivers on all the things we loved about the first film. We love Michael B. Jordan, we love Black Love, we love Rocky Balboa, and we love a good underdog story. This sequel doubles down on all of these themes, and is anchored on four pillars: Legacy, Destiny, Honor, and Family.
Ok, let’s get the obvious out of the way … Michael B. Jordan is eye candy that most can’t deny.
When promotional images started circulating about the film, women instantly began planning viewing parties for their friends to get together and see Jordan in all of his glory. But to be fair, Jordan isn’t just smoldering good looks and muscles alone. He brings a commitment and realness to the role of Adonis Creed that makes him a legit and memorable character in the Rocky franchise, and a dutiful son to carry on the legacy of Apollo Creed.
With just a minor fast-forward in time, Creed II pretty much picks up where the previous film left off. Adonis Creed is riding high off his successful matches and rises to the ranks of Heavyweight Champion of the world. Of course, with more success comes more challenges. But, adding another element of what we loved about the original film, Creed II gives us more of the beautiful Black Love relationship between Adonis and Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson.
Despite his strength in the ring, Adonis unapologetically shows his vulnerability and need for Bianca. And, she is Black Girl Magic in her own right. She is not the stereotypical athletes’ wife. Although she is unshakably loyal and supportive, she has her own ambitions, career, and dreams. She does not allow her relationship to mute any of those things. Their depiction of a healthy relationship is beautiful to witness on screen.
Next is the legend himself, Sylvester Stallone reprising his role as Rocky Balboa. Because his character is so iconic, every word out of his mouth seems like a jewel of wisdom.
He keeps posing the question to Adonis of “What are you fighting for?” While on the surface, it may seem obvious, as the film unfolds, Rocky’s question seems to hold more weight and forces Adonis to seriously evaluate his life and decisions. Adonis quickly realizes that he is not just fighting for himself anymore. With a new fiancé and baby on the way, the gravity of his decisions weigh heavy on him. He is no longer just a fighter, he is also a father and a provider. Rocky continues his role as Adonis’ trainer as he prepares for the most strenuous and challenging fight of his career.
Adonis agrees to fight Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago who notably killed Apollo Creed during an exhibition match in the film Rocky IV, and ultimately set the stage for the reprisal of this new leg of the Rocky franchise. A fight between these two sons proves to be cinematic gold. Both are carrying the burden of their father’s missteps all while trying to forge their own path and legacy.
Then, there is the underdog. The film does a good job of making you question who that really is. At different points in the movie, both Adonis and Viktor can be seen as the proverbial underdog. And beyond that, you feel sympathy for both characters as they attempt to break free of their father’s looming shadows. The movie goes beyond just a feel-good sports movie by taking deeper looks at family dynamics, cultural traditions, masculinity, and classism. Viktor and Adonis face these hurdles. Each have their own unique approach of dealing with them. Both men question what is expected of them and buck against traditions that do not serve them well.
The film has been criticized for following the same Rocky formula, even going so far as to say that Creed II is just a makeshift reboot of Rocky III. While there are undeniable similarities in story structure, Creed II stands strong on its own. And, regardless of if this criticism is true or not, audiences don’t really seem to mind. To date, Creed II has made over 81 million dollars since its opening on Thanksgiving Day. It also holds a respectable 83% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.
My Reel Review for this film is 3.5 out of 5 stars. As with pretty much every movie in the Rocky franchise, you will leave the theatre feeling motivated, invincible, and determined. However, what makes this film extra special, is that you will also leave with the question, “What are YOU fighting for?” Any film that makes you delve into self-reflection is worth seeing. And, that’s Reel …