Following six instalments the days of the Italian Stallion ended in 2015 when director Ryan Coogler made Adonis Creed the new face of the Rocky franchise. Michael B Jordan returns for a second bout as the new boxer on the block with co-stars Tessa Thompson and old boys Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lungdren in the corners. Coogler doesn't return however, throwing in the towel and jetting off to Wakanda, probably staying there for a while. Filling his shoes we have Steven Caple Jr. but will he be fit for the ring? It's seconds out as current heavyweight champion Adonis Creed faces off against Victor Drago, son of the legendary Ivan.
Twomping you with a mighty uppercut is this knockout addition to the famous boxing saga. In a year full of lacklustre sequels Creed II really delivers. Following the Oscar nominated success of the first film, Caple Jr. has the very difficult challenge of keeping the series in title contention. Nonetheless Creed II is a brilliant follow-up movie - a nuanced, character driven story that figures out the formula behind making a great Rocky movie. The film zones in on Adonis Creed as he continues to gain life experiences both in and out of the ring. Creed II forces Adonis to realise the risks of his profession, not only him but also to his loved ones every time the bell rings.
The cinematography is a real, unexpected gem. Creed II immerses you in the gruelling training sequences paying homage to the original but with a modern twist, showering you with blood, sweat and tears. The film builds tension by finding inventive shots within the ring but it also allows those essential, quieter moments. There are a lot of natural visuals that demonstrate Adonis Creed's conflicts within himself as a lonely athlete - one particular scene sees the boxer dive underwater - cold and isolated, he sinks from the pressure of his aspirations. The sound design is equally marvellous, as Creed's head dunks down into the water the background voiceover becomes muffled - suggesting he is literally drowning out the noise of others.
Whilst Rocky Balboa has hung up his gloves for good, he is very much in his element as the wily, experienced trainer. There is generally a risk when veteran Hollywood actors return to the silver screen that their performances are so wooden you're picking out splinters from of your eyes by the credits (i.e Harrison Ford in The Force Awakens). The same can't be said for Sly's return as the fabulous Italian Stallion, nor indeed for the steely, brooding Dolph. Stallone delivers once again as Rocky, the knowledgable voice of reason who ages like a fine wine. Jordan is incredible and continues to show his strength as an actor, carefully picking the right roles.
Creed II already has the upper hand, rising from the downward spiral of the later Rocky episodes, staying strong in the later rounds. Sequels more often than not can't replicate the personality of the original, giving audiences bigger moments rather than maintaining focus on one's character arc. Creed II emphatically bypasses these tropes, delivering an exquisite boxing feature that takes us further into Adonis' world as life becomes ever more serious for him and his loved ones.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.