Adonis Creed has established himself as the heavyweight champion, earning his stripes without riding on his father’s coattails. While he enjoys the luxuries of life in a Philadelphia apartment, Viktor Drago subsists on cold proteins in Kiev’s bleak housing blocks, under the stern gaze of his father, Ivan. Both fighters look weary yet hungry, seeking redemption and escape in the boxing ring.
This would have been a perfect setup for a twenty-minute spinoff focusing solely on the Dragos. A short film could have unfolded in a dilapidated kitchen, capturing the raw, industrial atmosphere of the original Rocky movies without the need for dialogue. It could have ended with a meeting between Drago Sr. and Rocky in Philadelphia, reminiscing over a plate of spaghetti about the scars they’ve both accrued, both physical and emotional.
Unfortunately, Creed II stretches on for an unwieldy 130 minutes—far longer than it deserves. New director Steven Caple Jr. and screenwriter Cheo Hodari Coker, known for showrunning Luke Cage, have turned it into an overstuffed character drama. Despite the film’s extended runtime, it fails to delve deeply into its subjects, settling instead for superficial clichés.
The first Creed film was a pleasant surprise. Nobody expected much from a Rocky spinoff, but it defied expectations, transforming Adonis into a formidable fighter under Rocky’s tutelage. Creed II, however, falters by betting too heavily on the return of Ivan Drago as a central plot element, leaving little room for other character development.
While Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago is underutilized, he makes the most of his screen time. Both he and Florian Munteanu, who plays his son Viktor, communicate volumes without speaking, using subtle expressions to reveal complex motivations. Drago Sr., it seems, is trying to amend his past through his son, but ironically only repeats the mistakes that led to his downfall.
Steven Caple Jr.’s direction only skims the surface of its characters’ inner lives. Whether it’s Adonis struggling with his identity as a champion, contemplating marriage, or grappling with his mentors’ legacies, the film addresses these issues in such a predictable way that they become clichés rather than compelling narrative arcs.
Creed II occasionally springs to life during its fight scenes and one notably well-executed training montage in the desert. However, these moments are too infrequent, making the film feel more like a sluggish boxer past his prime than a fresh contender. The final fight scene is well-crafted but emotionally hollow; its motivations unclear and its payoff unsatisfying.
The film’s fundamental issue is its lack of direction. It attempts to balance the legacy of Rocky IV with the ambitions of a new franchise but ends up feeling like a lost, meandering sequel. The film doesn’t advance Adonis Creed’s character and leaves even Rocky in a state of emotional limbo, saved only by a poignant final scene.
In summary, Creed II is a frustrating film that can’t decide what it wants to be. It brings together two contrasting narratives—settling old scores and starting anew—but fails to do justice to either. Despite its earnest attempts, the film fails to move the needle for its characters, leaving audiences with a mix of disappointment and unfulfilled promise.
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