by Corey Gresham
Creed II, the latest installment in the critically acclaimed “Rocky” franchise and the follow up to 2015’s Creed is a phenomenal showing the director Steven Caple, Jr. and Michael B. Jordan. In this sequel, Adonis Johnson has fully embraced is father’s name and legacy and has accepted the Creed name as his own. He’s no longer running from his father’s legacy, he’s running toward it… and defending it. He does this all while making his own name for himself. Creed II is full of wonderful callbacks to the original series that are more charming than a crutch. The callbacks are subtle but relevant. As Adonis is now taking on Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, the man who famously said “If he dies, he dies” just before killing “Donnie’s” father Apollo Creed in the ring in Rocky IV, the entire sports world is talking about it. For those who have yet to see the original Rocky movies, there is enough nostalgia talked about by minor characters in the background and shown on television in passing to keep you current in the same vain as hearing your parents talk about Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston, Joe Frasier or even Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield depending on age. It’s not overbearing. It is a charming reminder of what was. It shows the progression of time and how things have changed without compromising those that are still here. Rocky randomly bounces a ball he’s had since the original series and that’s the kind of reward longtime fans of the series are treated with. Steven Caple, Jr. does a fantastic job of keeping things unpredictable in a story that could easily fall into that abyss. Tessa Thomson puts on another acclaimed performance as she returns as singer and Adonis’s love interest, Bianca. Never one to hold or mince words, she continues to be the voice Adonis listens to when he’s so far in his own way that he can’t hear anything else. Ivan Drago played by Dolph Lundgren is less ominous than he was when we first met him. No doubt a bit weary from age but also wiser because of it. Life has not been kind to Ivan Drago since the conclusion of Rocky IV and this is the sort of thing that reminds you there is always two sides to a story. There are always consequences for every action. Viktor Drago is ever the machine his father was, but unlike his father, isn’t emotionless. Where Ivan Drago was a sentinel, Viktor carries that power but is less stoic and as such, maintains his humanity. I won’t say much more than that but just understand there is a Yin and a Yang to every tale.