Last night, I had the honor of watching Creed II at my nearest theater. Here is my review, whilst listening to “Hearts on Fire” from Rocky IV; and there’s nobody who can stop me.
The movie opens with Ivan Drago and his son in the Ukraine, where they train and live, since neither are allowed back into Russia. The scene is one of my favorites in the movie because it introduces you back into Drago’s life and sets the stage nicely, showing that Drago lost everything. As he explains to Rocky in a well-done restaurant scene, he blames Rocky for all that has gone wrong with his life since the fight 33 years earlier, and is set on retribution. His country abandoned him and his wife the same, even leaving their son, Viktor. Newbie director Steven Caple Jr. referenced the origin of the opening scene to The Dark Knight, when Joker and his goons stole a boatload of money from a bank. That was one of the best opening scenes ever.
As the movie chugs along, it does a good job at staying on pace, showing Bianca’s hearing problems, Adonis manning up to a proposal, and finally a first child. But then hell breaks loose.
Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, challenges Creed, who just won the Heavyweight Championship, to a fight. After he does accept (despite Rocky’s ostentatious dissidence, eventually leaving Adonis), the two sluggers are pit against each other, the mountain of a man Viktor Drago and the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Adonis Creed.
Though he stayed in it longer than I had envisioned, Adonis got manhandled. Viktor ended up breaking his ribs in a punch. But then he had a stupid idea and punched Creed while he was on his knees in pain, disqualifying Viktor immediately.
After months of recuperation and a reconciliation with Rocky, they both agree that Balboa will train Creed for Viktor, since the Italian Tank himself had faced his bigger father years prior, and won. The movie does a great job at depicting Creed as a person on the hunt for revenge, especially due to Michael B. Jordan’s acting which has escalated to a new level. Further, when Adonis and Rocky make up, the relationship between the two returns to full effect, and it’s awesome.
There is another fantastic scene mid-way through. Ivan and his son Viktor are attending a dinner with important figures in Russia, including, ironically, Ivan’s former wife and Viktor’s mother, Ludmilla Drago. Viktor is incensed that she is even there, or that even his father is allowing it. He forces himself out and away, while his father follows, setting up for a great scene. Viktor screams at Ivan that the people in there abandoned him and treated him like garbage, etc. Grabbing his son by the shoulder, Ivan answers by saying, “I lost! I lost, but you won’t!” This is so fantastic. It shows that Ivan was never a bad guy—in fact neither are. That’s when you know you have a good movie—when both sides are understandable and you would like both to prevail.
By the time of the next fight (set in Russia), Rocky had trained Creed differently than previous times, and for good reason. Side-by-side, Viktor towers over Adonis, just like how Ivan towered over Rocky in IV. 10-dozen punches and 2 breaks later, Adonis prevails in an epic battle between the two powerhouses. Near the end of the fight, though, when Adonis begins to throw haymakers on Viktor, Ludmilla, who attended the fight, leaves. Ivan notices this, as does his son; both are clearly and rightfully devastated. But then there is the best scene of the last two movies, one many might miss. Seeing his son, Viktor, being hailed on by an endless array of punches by Creed, Ivan throws in the towel. You could see his distress at that point, for he knew it was happening again. But that is the genius of this scene. Ivan did the very thing Rocky never did when Ivan killed Apollo. He ended the fight.
Though his son was pissed and kept pushing him away, Ivan was not angry at him. Viktor had used all his might to win. He wanted to win for his country and his father’s legacy, since Ivan had been disrespected. Ivan half-way embraced him and said, “It’s okay.” This might prove that Ivan has gotten over his quest for revenge.
After another beautiful scene, where Rocky stands back and allows Creed to be in the spotlight, we move into the end of the movie. Instead of driving a car as his son keeps up, Ivan and Viktor both run side-by-side. Perfect.
Rocky Balboa is typical Rocky: fantastic. Michael B. Jordan is incredible. Tessa Thompson is a great choice, and Dolph Lundgren is so dynamic as Ivan Drago. Florian Munteanu (Viktor Drago) is a monster.