Film: “Creed II”; Director: Stephen Caple Jr.; Cast: Michel B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu; Rating: **…writes Troy Ribeiro
Like most sequels, “Creed II” is a huge disappointment. It is far from intense, epic and emotional.
While its predecessor, which released in 2015 hit all the expected beats of the genre, like overcoming insurmountable odds and overwhelming feeling of accomplishments and surprised us by the minute emotional tinges in the narration, this edition directed by Stephen Caple Jr. lacks on all the above fronts.
In fact, there is no real story here. The writing credited to four writers, two for screenplay and two for the story, gum up a plot that are a bunch of scenes from the various “Rocky” plots.
Here the inciting moment seems forced. It comes after a series of romantic sequences between Adonis Creed and his girlfriend Bianca, when Victor Dragos (Florian Munteanu), the son of the former Soviet Boxer Ivan Dragos, the man who killed Creed’s father Apollo in the ring a generation earlier in “Rocky IV”, challenges him for the heavyweight title. They fight and obviously Adonis loses but a lamentable scripting decision has Viktor disqualified, therefore technically leaving the crown on Adonis who has just been trashed.
This leads to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) once again training Adonis. But this time the motivation to succeed is lacking. Instead the writers lay emphasis on Adonis’ private life. The narrative briefly touches upon how he proposes to Bianca, her hearing issue which is then stretched on to investigating their baby for auditory problems and Adonis’ guilt trip. Their heart-breaking development takes centre-stage. But unfortunately, the scenes are so hastily wrapped up that you don’t care for them.
The script is packed with corny bashfulness on Creed’s part and verbose expository as Rocky takes time out from chatting with his wife’s tombstone in order to advise Creed not to fight Viktor Drago.
As for the performances, Michael B. Jordan is sincere, effortless and well-deserving as Adonis. He now seems world weary and burdened with the crown and thus the spark that we saw in him in the first edition, is now missing. So, he doesn’t seem to be the same character and everything he goes through just doesn’t feel inspired or grounded.
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa resonates his part in an inarticulate manner, earnestly. Tessa Thompson as Bianca gives an amazing nuanced performance. She is resolute, stoic, fragile and vulnerable all at the same time. Florian Munteanu with a strong screen presence as Victor Drago is intimidating.
Overall, for a film about a boxer’s life, the fighting sequences are what holds the pulse of the narrative. But here the fighting scenes are poorly packaged. Unfortunately they seem more like club boxing matches rather than the epic battle it is made out to be. So in that sense, “Creed II” never really delivers.