After winning the light heavyweight boxing title in ‘Creed’, Adonis tries to balance his personal and professional life when he’s challenged by Viktor Drago. Viktor is the son of Ivan Drago – (Spoiler Alert?!) the man who killed Apollo Creed in the ring all the way back in ‘Rocky IV’ (1985). Now Adonis needs to dig deeper to find the strength and resolve to avenge his father’s death. This 8th installment in the ‘Rocky’ franchise is torn between drawing from the history of all its predecessors while having its own clear identity. If it wasn’t evident before, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has now been primarily categorised as a mentor/ father figure. Yet, the film still feels a need to follow the beats now familiar with this boxing series.
What might surprise you is how you are compelled to care about the Dragos. There’s a pathos to both Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) and Viktor (Florian Munteanu) who aren’t treated as typical antagonists. Their backstory addresses an intriguing question – what happens to the bad guy after he fails? Dolph Lundgren gives a nuanced performance that communicates a lot, without saying much. Playing his son Viktor is a considerable responsibility for newcomer Florian Munteanu, but he’s convincingly menacing. If there’s one actor who has come into his own this year, it’s Michael B. Jordan who infuses Adonis Creed with the intensity and vulnerability needed to convey a myriad range of emotions through the course of the film.
However, while trying to invest more into its character arcs, the screenplay slacks across various points, often falling prey to the standard nature of its very premise. Worse still, the actual fights are unimaginative and all too forgettable. Sure, there are ample sentimental moments, but they’re quite predictable. The hardest blow falls on the relationship between Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and Adonis; pivotal scenes between them fail to hit home as much as they should, despite Tessa Thompson’s substantial efforts. Chalk this all down to uninspired writing; an average film-goer might be able to guess how the film will pan out. And yet, strong performances combined with the sturdy, albeit measured direction by Steven Caple Jr., ensure that although ‘Creed II’ often comes across as formulaic, there’s no shame in enjoying it for nostalgic reasons.