Movie Review: “Creed II,” Originality Zero?

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“You can feel the excitement in this arena tonight,” the boxing broadcaster Jim Lampley lies in introducing the climactic fight finale of “Creed II.”

And because that’s not enough, he launches into “It feels Shakespearean.”

And while one is sure that co-screenwriter Sylvester Stallone secretly believes his “Rocky” saga deserves the comparison, the relentless tedium of the preceding 80 minutes or so drive a stake through that delusion.

There’s barely an original thought or novel theme in “Creed II,” a movie that wrings more bloody-nose money from the original “Rocky” sequels in recycling characters, themes, fights and situations and putting Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson instead of Stallone and Talia Shire in them this time.

It’s a wearying two hours+ of the same old story, freshened up with a whole fathers-sons-legacy subtext and story beats so over-familiar it plays like bland comfort food– nothing here to challenge the viewer’s digestive tract or mental faculties.

“Creed” was a blockbuster with awards season buzz a couple of years back, and I frankly was mystified. It’s just “Rocky” warmed over, an African American remake of the classic “underdog” story that never — for one millisecond — lets us feel the hero is an underdog.

“Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler delivered a derivative, generic and yes, slick as all get out crowd pleaser, “Rocky” with the grit and rough edges smoothed out. The slickness extended to the cast. No hard-scrabble mug struggling to make it, but the offspring of a rich and famous boxer — two good looking parents. Hell, they named the kid “Adonis,” for Pete’s sake.

No shy wallflower of a girlfriend, either. Tessa Thompson, a terrific actress, is a beauty of the “runway ready/cover girl” variety. “Ebony” certainly thought so, and they aren’t alone.

“Creed II” is “Rocky IV” without the Cold War politics, resurrecting Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the boxer who killed Adonis Creed’s daddy, Apollo. The gimmick, the giant Ivan and Ice Queen ex-wife (Brigitte Nielsen) spawned another Man Mountain Russian. And Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is the biggest threat to newly-crowned champ Adonis, and a reminder of the way his father died in a ring throw-weight mismatch back in 1985.

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There’s a new director on board, Steve Caple Jr., and he renders the obligatory hype-buildup to the fights bland. Training montages we’ve seen scores of times, almost all of them better than the ones depicted here. Bit players as promoters, trainers, etc., barely register.

The fights are the usual “Rocky” riot of haymakers, the soapy subtexts — pregnancy, nearly-deaf Bianca’s music career, Adonis losing his nerve after a savage beating, Rocky Balboa visiting Adrian’s grave, Adonis visiting his father’s and Phylicia Rashad (as Mrs. Creed, the Mother who Knows a Pregnant Bianca when she sees one) stealing a scene or two because nobody else seems to want possession of them — of only middling interest.

Thompson must be reading her “It Girl” press clippings, because she’s barely present here. She’s been better in literally every other film or TV show I’ve seen her in. They held her interest with a couple of musical performance moments. Jordan loses some of the Young Creed’s Angry Young Man edge. Not all of it. Stallone is just set dressing delivering banalities about the ring being “the loneliest place in the world.”

I liked “Rocky,” but I never developed the undying devotion to it that much of America did upon release, and over the years of sequels that followed. Similarly, I found “Creed” more or less watchable, but thought it a decent genre picture buried under hype and over-the-top praise.

But one thing you can still say about the first three “Rocky” pictures is that Stallone made the character evolve and gave him real pitfalls to face — wealth and fame sapping an athlete’s hunger, problems of working class poverty replaced by the problems of affluence.

Jordan doesn’t have that luxury here, with Stallone just cutting and pasting chunks of the earlier movies into each new script and leaving out the heart. The best line is the elder Drago using his family problems to motivate his basically motherless son.

“He’s why She Left!”

But the talented leads here have options, talent that points to careers that will take them places — different places. If they’re trapped by more mediocre “Creed” sequels, that’ll be on them.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality

Cast:Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundren, Florian Munteanu, Wood Harris

Credits:Directed by Steven Caple Jr., script by Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor . An MGM/Warners-New Line release.

Running time: 2:10

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8 Responses to Movie Review: “Creed II,” Originality Zero?

  1. Mike says:

    Wow you really come across as a racist buffoon. You are the only negative review on meta critic. I am requesting they remove your review bc you are a white nationalist

    • Oh? Suggesting the leads have talent, but that they’re trapped in a trite, recycled script by Stallone is “racist?” Prove to the world you READ the review you’re labeling “white nationalist” just because you’re can’t tell the difference between a good movie and a crap one.

      • Shawn says:

        All of the actors did a fine job in the film, I’m not sure why you think Thompson didn’t show up.
        And yes this movie is very similar to Rocky IV, which was a great movie, but it also is different/juxtaposed in very interesting ways.
        Seeing the decline of boxing since the Russia/USA cold war era. Drago going from state of the art training sponsored by the government to training his son basically the way Rocky trained. Going from Grand stadiums and insane levels of nationalism to small town arenas. Zero government interest.
        The best part about Creed 2 is seeing it as a very real mirror of our reality vs the cold war era realty of Rocky IV.
        I also disagree with saying the training montage was boring. Seeing how he trained specifically to fight Drago was really interesting and made a lot of sense. The toe to toe tire training thing was very intelligent and they used that later on in the actual fight. Most Rocky training montages are generic training, but seeing them actually setting something up and using it later in the movie is a huge step forward for the franchise.
        And I mean the fights were pretty awesome as well.
        Also can’t forgot all the character progression that happened in the movie, from Drago throwing in the towel to Rocky visiting his son. It was all really well written.

      • “Rocky IV, which was a great movie.” LOL.

    • Reader says:

      I feel like you are being one of those people that say someone is racist just because they criticize someone that happens to be black, and i’m not saying that people don’t do that, but it doesn’t mean every time that happens it is racist. By the end of the movie i wasn’t crying because Creed won, I got a few tears thinking about how Drago must of felt to spend his life to train and win the championship so that his mother accepted him, but then his mother just standing up and leaving during the fight. No matter what his father did in the past, it was so nice see that he was the one that comforted him and the end, no matter how hard on his son he was before. I feel like this movie would’ve been so much better if it was just about Drago. It could’ve been an actual underdog story where he was alone all his life, and had to face every challenge alone with no one to talk to.

  2. Mark Ferry says:

    I know it’s a professional film critic’s job to analyze the blood out of movies as though each one is supposed to be teaching lessons in writing and cinema. But honestly, the only thing audiences really care about is; is the damn thing fun to watch or isn’t it? People go to movies to be entertained for a couple of hours, not to get lessons in great film-making. And if I had to guess, that’s all the makers of Creed II, or most other films, have in mind anyway. So I recommend either you lighten up and stop being so enamored with you own voice or just spend your time reviewing French love stories or German performance art. They’d likely suit you better.

    • Reader says:

      I watch a movie to see a meaningful story and a new point of view that i can really connect with or think about. There aren’t many of those, but I really love the movies I can do that with. I don’t want to watch the same plot line all over again. He isn’t criticizing the movie on how other people think but on how he thinks.

  3. Mike Lowrey says:

    Great review.
    Just watched Creed 2 and agree completely with every paragraph. If you guys who hate on the reviewer want to see some decent boxing movies, try “Raging Bull”, “The Fighter” or “Million Dollar Baby”.
    Much better than this rehashed crap for the millennials.
    Don’t take any guff from these swine rogerinorlando.

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