Adonis Creed faces his biggest challenge in Creed II. Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been on a winning streak over the past three years, which peaks with him winning the Heavyweight Title from Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler (Andre Ward). However, soon after the big win, Creed is challenged by Ukrainian boxer Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of former Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who was infamously responsible for the death of Adonis’ father Apollo. However, with him engaged to his girlfriend Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), with a baby on the way, Adonis has to decide what he is fighting for.
After the success of 2015’s Creed helped reboot the Rocky franchise for a new generation, we return with a sequel that ups the stakes. Presumably busy with Black Panther, Ryan Coogler does not return to directed this sequel, with first time director Steven Caple Jr. taking the reigns, with a script written by Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone. The story Creed II revisits the events of Rocky IV, as disgraced Russian boxer Ivan Drago reemerges, hoping to use his son Viktor to reclaim glory in his homeland. This results in a very strong emotional response from Adonis, who wants to avenge his father’s death from three decades earlier.
If Creed was the film that introduced these new younger characters to the Rocky universe, than Creed II is the film where the older generation finally passes the torch. The entire film is essentially about Adonis Creed trying to cement his own legacy. Even though the film kicks off with him winning the heavyweight title, Adonis still doesn’t feel like he was really accomplished anything. This results in Adonis quickly accepting the challenge of Viktor Drago, despite the protests from Rocky Balboa, who is still haunted by Apollo Creed’s death and the subsequent fight he had with Ivan Drago.
While some may see turning Creed II into a direct follow-up to Rocky IV a step down from the previous film, I feel that it actually ups the stakes in this sequel, as Adonis Creed has to go face-to-face with the son of the man who killed his father. In addition, bringing back figures from the past helps to make this film a fitting swan song for Rocky Balboa. Sylvester Stallone has hinted that this will be his final time playing the character and if so, Creed II does a good job at having Rocky pass the torch to Adonis.
In the end, I’m probably one of the few who thinks Creed II is a better film than the original and it will be interesting to see if and how they continue the character’s journey.