If for nothing else, it must be noted that Creed II manages a near impossible feat and accomplishes something I can’t recall having seen before. It serves as a sequel to two separate films made thirty years apart. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s a direct sequel to the 2015 film Creed, which, of course, is a spin off from the Rocky franchise. To take it one step further, however, Creed II also serves as a continuation of the events from the 1985 box office champ, Rocky IV, thus making it a film that works on two distinctly different levels. Either way this is a film that works quite well on both fronts.    

To catch up those who missed the 2015 installment entitled simply Creed, the title character, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), is the son of Rocky Balboa’s former opponent, eventual trainer and friend, Apollo Creed. The first film charted the younger Creed’s decision to follow in his late father’s boxing footsteps and forge his own path in that world under Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone, of course) guidance.

Stallone & Jordan (center) in Creed II

The second chapter in the Creed saga ups the emotional stakes by having the son of boxer Ivan Drago­—the man who killed Adonis’ father—challenging him to his title.    The younger Drago (Florian Munteanu) is as vicious and monstrous in the ring as his father once was all those many years ago. Rocky doesn’t want to see tragedy from the past repeat itself, especially now that Adonis has finally proposed to his longtime love, Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and has a child in the picture. With all of this personal drama, Adonis obviously has a lot to consider. 

Creed II, admittedly, does contain an air of predictability for anyone who’s seen any or all of the films in the Rocky franchise. Even if the outcome is never in question, however, it’s a testament to Stallone’s talents as a writer (he co-wrote this one and wrote the majority of the other entries) that he manages to drum up enough suspense to keep the audience thoroughly engaged. He also knows the characters and their world so intimately that they come alive as people rather than caricatures. Even Rocky’s former opponent, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) comes off as sympathetic and that’s not an easy feat to pull off. This is a film that can be forgiven for its formulaic trappings due to the fact that we care so much about the people who inhabit this world. It’s a lesson that many less talented writers would do well to heed.

Creed II is playing everywhere.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].