Creed II, by Albert W. Vogt III

One good thing to say about the Creed franchise to this point is that it does not follow the same pattern as its predecessor, Rocky, with reminding you for the first few minutes what happened in the last one.  Some may appreciate the reminder of what they had last seen.  I do not.  But, hey, if that is you, then more power to you.  Then again, there are a lot of other ways in which the new series mimics the old one.  For example, today’s film, Creed II (2018), is basically Rocky IV (1985).

Why do I say that Creed II is basically Rocky IV?  Because Creed II begins not with the title character, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), or his mentor and trainer, Robert “Rocky” Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).  Instead, we get Rocky’s foe from the earlier film, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), waking up his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu).  Predictably, the young man is following in his old man’s footsteps, and dishing out devastating punishment in the rings of Russia and Ukraine.  He is not the only one boxing.  When we finally get to Adonis, it is as he winning the world heavyweight title for the first time.  Afterwards, Adonis turns to Rocky for some even more important advice: how to ask his girlfriend, Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), to marry him.  As is the default for the Italian Stallion, he tells his pupil to speak from the heart.  Bianca says yes, and life suddenly becomes less about boxing and more about the rest of it.  This all changes when, like in Rocky IV, Viktor comes to the United States to challenge Adonis.  This is manufactured by an up-and-coming promoter, Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), who cares only about the money to be made from a potential bout between Adonis and the son of the man who had killed the champion’s father.  Adonis does his best to ignore the obvious goading, but the taunts become personal and thus too much for him to bear.  The problem is that Rocky will not train Adonis for this fight, seeing the young man’s motivation to be solely about revenge.  There is a falling out between the two, and Adonis and Bianca decide to move back to Los Angeles.  There they can be close to Adonis’ adoptive mother, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), and Bianca can start her music career.  At the same time, the fight with Viktor looms, and there are a few hurtles to be overcome.  The first is that Adonis now has no one to train him, though that is easily fixed by going to the gym that gave his father, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), his shot.  The next issue is Mary Anne.  She had watched ringside when Ivan killed Apollo.  Yet, her anticipation is focused on her guessing that Bianca is pregnant.  That is the last of the hazards besetting Adonis as he prepares for Viktor.  Like with its near twin, the Drago beats the Creed.  What it does not bring is the belt because Viktor uppercuts Adonis while is down on one knee.  This disqualifies Viktor, allowing Adonis to continue to hold the title.  His mangled face and the stint in the hospital suggest that he lost.  That is certainly how he feels, even after Rocky comes to comfort him.  As seems to happen in all these movies, there settles in a period when Adonis is losing his will to carry on.  Not even patching things up with Rocky seems to quite do the trick.  Of course, he does have other matters to which to attend, such as the birth of his daughter.  There is a further concern when she is born with the same kind of hearing loss as her mother.  It takes a late night of her refusing to quit crying for dad to remember what it means to be a fighter.  Thus, the decision is made to give Viktor a rematch.  This is necessitated, too, by the fact that Viktor remains the number one contender and Adonis must fight or have his title vacated.  Again, echoing the previous film, the bout is to take place in Russia.  Instead of Adonis traveling over there to prepare for the bout as Rocky did, Rocky develops an old school regimen for his pupil in the desert.  There may not be snow, but it is essentially the same thing.  Meanwhile, Viktor is being embraced by Russia despite the fact that the entire country had disinherited his father, including his mother, Ludmilla Vobet Drago (Brigitte Nielsen).  Thus, they are all ringside for the main event between the two opponents.  The match does not go well early on for Adonis, and he is knocked down several times.  If it had not been for the steadying hand of Rocky in his corner, Adonis probably would not have been able to continue.  Continuing is made all the more difficult by the fact that Viktor has broken Adonis’ ribs. This is just as well because, as the bout grounds on, Adonis is able to continue to dish out blows that stagger Viktor. These finally catch up to the challenger.  As the tables are turned, with Ludmilla leaving the match in disgust, Ivan does the unthinkable: he throws in the towel, ending the match.  Adonis has defended the title and avenged his father, and Rocky lets him have his moment in the spotlight.  We close with two reunions.  The first is Rocky traveling to visit his estranged son, Robert Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia).  The second is Adonis bringing his new family to visit Apollo’s grave for the first time.

Yes, Creed II is a lot like Rocky IV.  Unoriginality aside, I am largely okay with the similarities.  What has me worried is looking ahead to Creed III, which is the main reason I sat through the last eight movies.  The one character that has been a mainstay throughout all of these has been Rocky, and he is apparently not going to be in the third installment.  According to the articles I briefly glanced it, there is an issue Stallone had with the supposed darker tone of the third Creedinstallment.  Stallone describes himself as more sentimental, and you can see this side in the character of Rocky in Creed II.  He has some words of wisdom for Adonis that jive well with this Catholic.  I have already mentioned the advice given Adonis before his proposal.  Jesus dwells in the heart, so speaking from that place invites God into our world.  That is always a good thing.  What I also like more broadly is Rocky’s challenge to Adonis to be a better man.  He lays out many of the mistakes he and Apollo made, and encourages Adonis to be a better man.  It is funny how many of these traits, even today, that we would say comprise what it means to be a better man are ones that Christians have held dear for centuries. These are the kinds of things that extend beyond the ring.  Once you can get a grip on those matters, then you will be stronger in all areas of your life.  This is most prevalent in dealing with the bad things.  When Adonis is faced with the possibility of his daughter not being able to hear, he must learn to cope with these situations.  While God is not a part of what he does, it is definitely an easier path to inner peace than boxing.

As I mentioned a moment ago, watching Creed II and others of its ilk has been a preparation for Creed III.  I am happy that I am finally done with them so that I can get back to watching something different.  These are not bad movies, just not terribly original.


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