Creed sequel packs a punch

While they are not known for their nuance, sports films are beloved. Age old rivalries, larger than life characters, flashy fights and speeches with the power to move viewers time and time again give viewers a reason to keep coming back to them. “Creed II” isn’t any different.

Creed is the eighth installment in the famous Rocky series starring Sylvester Stallone. Naturally, Creed weaves in a lot of backstory into the film’s plot. With that said, the film explains everything you need to know and seeing the previous films only makes “Creed II” more entertaining to watch.

The Creed movies follow Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther”). In “Creed I” Creed gets the legendary Rocky to train him after revealing that he’s the son of Apollo Creed, who died fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky Balboa’s place. In “Rocky IV” Rocky fights and beats Drago in an effort to avenge his trainer and friend’s death. The first film ends with Creed losing the fight but winning the night against “Pretty” Ricky Conlan for the championship.

“Creed II” picks up three years after the 2015 film and opens with Creed being named the heavyweight world champion, accomplishing what he couldn’t in the previous film. But Creed isn’t fulfilled.

Enter: Viktor Drago, the son of the man who killed Creed’s father and who Rocky disgraced. After being exiled from Russia after his loss to Rocky, abandoned by his wife and left penniless in the Ukraine, Ivan groomed Drago to fight Creed.

The movie revolves around this fight to avenge their fathers’ losses and secure their own individual legacies.

“Creed II” embraces many sports-action movie cliches. Creed has the money, the fancy car and the belt yet it’s not enough. Even when Creed and his longtime girlfriend Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, get married, he’s restless. He has to fight Drago even though he’s forgotten who he’s fighting for and it takes hitting rock bottom for Creed to figure it out.

These fights to the death, where one side puts everything on the line and the other has nothing left to lose, are timeless and continuously compelling.

Jordan’s acting brings these themes home in a performance nearly as compelling as his role in “Black Panther.”

But you can’t talk about this film without talking about the fight scenes. The heftier budget made the scenes bigger and better than those of “Creed I.” Yeah, the punches are flashier and the final arena puts the final fight in the former film to shame, but Creed’s dramatic entrances put the fights in “Creed II” over the top.

In the first fight, Creed comes out with a light show around the entrance leading out into the arena. It’s impressive and feisty… until you see the second one.

A ball of light circles the wall of the arena like a comet and stops at Creed’s entrance. Underwhelming. Then a slightly different light show starts at the doorway. Okay, still not great. Then the light partially hits someone as they step out and you think it’s Creed but you’re so wrong. It’s Bianca who steps out instead of Creed and starts singing, rapping and hyping Creed up. It was iconic.

Aside from the timeless plot and dramatic fight scenes, father-son dynamics remained at the heart of the film.

Throughout the film, Rocky struggles to train Creed for a fight that could get him killed just as it did his father. At the same time he struggles to find the courage to reach out to his son Robert, played by Milo Ventimiglia, who he’s fallen out with since the end of the Rocky films. Ultimately he has to decide what and why he’s fighting just like Creed.

With the intense fight scenes and their dazzling dramatic elements, putting these narratives of fathers and sons coming together makes the film worth watching. After all, it’s not the flashy cars and championship belts that are worth fighting for.

Rating: 4/5


Alexis Taylor is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexis.taylor@uconn.edu.