Creed II picks up straight from the end of the first film. Adonis is the Heavy Weight Champion of the World after defeating Danny Wheeler in a convincing victory. With the World at his feet, the new champ proposes to his longterm girlfriend and all looks perfect.
However, waiting for his chance is Ivan Drago the man who killed his father in the ring many years earlier. Disgraced by his defeat to Rocky, he has trained his giant of a son for one purpose in life. To be the best boxer in the world, but not just that, to defeat Adonis Creed and Rocky in the ring to reclaim his destiny.
Yes, this all sounds like some predictable Greek tragedy and to be blunt it is very much that. Whilst Adonis faced his own demons in the first film, his main obstacle was living up to his father's dream. So it was almost inevitable in Creed II, that his fathers past would rise up to challenge him further.
Viktor Drago is even bigger than his father and a total beast in the ring, virtually killing everyone he steps into the ring with. Even Rocky wants no part in the idea of Adonis facing such a colossal challenge. Here Adonis Creed must overcome himself, to have any chance of realizing what it truly means to be a champion.
It's fair to say that Creed, released in 2015, was very well received by critics and audiences. Sylvester Stallone (Rambo: Last Blood) was even nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor.
The first film was written and directed by Ryan Coogler who really did a fantastic job of lifting the franchise. After Rocky 6 it was clear that it was not viable to see Stallone in the ring anymore. So this new direction was a true stroke of genius that really worked.
The very big difference between Creed I & II is that the screenplay is written by Stallone. The result is a movie that has a much closer feel to the early Rocky films. In fact, it is very much a sentimental blended version of Rocky 3 and 4. Outrageous motivational training scenes, impossible battles and a champion who beats all the odds to be on top.
Ryan Coogler is replaced by Steven Caple Jr as Director, which maintains the flow to Stallone's over the top story. What is refreshing, is that the audience connects with the story of the bad guys almost as much as the hero. Allowing a more balanced outcome than previous films and I can't help feeling that this is not the last time we will see the Drago's.
For me, the reboot of the franchise only works as well as it does because of the brilliant casting. Michael B. Jordan was fantastic in the first Creed, which was very much character-based. He has been brilliant in recent movies like Black Panther and is fantastic in Creed II.
Tessa Thompson picks up her role as Bianca, the girlfriend and future wife of Adonis. Sylvester Stallone gives another touching performance of the broken down former champion. But playing the antagonists, Dolf Lundgren and Florian Munteanu are the real surprises. I never thought I would praise Lundgren for an acting performance and yet here we are. In many respects, the antagonists are more appealing than the protagonist and that reflects well on both actors playing the roles.
I do think Creed II is unbelievably predictable. It is overly sentimental and very slow in parts too. However, it is a film coming from the Rocky franchise. So it would be ridiculous to tear it apart for that. It is at its heart, an inspiring tale of overcoming personal struggles. When all is said and done, if you enjoy any of the Rocky films then you will enjoy this.
Personally I think Creed II is better than most of the old Rocky films, it certainly is entertaining and packs the expected amount of punch. I am just not sure if it is better than the first, but it is a fitting final handover from the old to the new.