Jacob Richardson | 03/12/2018
Suffering from many of the struggles sequels typically do, and certainly affected by following one of the best boxing films of all time, Creed II is still a fist-pumping good time in the ring.
After Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) wins the Heavyweight Championship, he is challenged by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Chomping at the bit to beat the son of the man who killed his father, Adonis takes the fight, against the wishes of his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who refuses to train him to do so. Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) move to L.A. to train at the gym his father, Apollo, used to in the lead up to the fight.
Steven Caple Jr. takes the reins from Ryan Coogler for Creed II, and what we get is much of what we loved from Creed. Unfortunately, a lot of the visual flair and emotional heft is missing.
Where Coogler used tracking shots and unbroken steadicam to tremendous effect to deliver a boxing movie that had never been as stylish before, Caple Jr. shoots in a much more standard way. In many ways that is a disappointment; we never get the visual direction flair that makes us feel like this isn’t just another Rocky movie.
However, to his credit, Caple Jr., working with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, does deliver some incredible visuals of his own. Most impressive from a cinematic perspective is the training montage in the desert, followed closely by a series of incredibly lit ring-entrance scenes from the fighters. The fact that there is absolutely no reason for Adonis to venture to the desert for the training is somewhat mitigated by how goddamn beautiful it looks.
In what he professes to be his final outing as the eponymous Philadelphian boxer, Sylvester Stallone once again proves that, despite all odds, he is actually a good actor. Tessa Thompson is spectacular, and Michael B Jordan is perfect as Adonis. There are a bunch of great, quiet moments (Adonis laid up in hospital springs to mind) where the acting takes front and centre, and these are often the best in the film.
The problem with these scenes is that the script just isn’t there. The dialogue often isn’t deserving of such performances, and too often we are left with moments that underwhelm. In many respects, this is true of the action too. The first and final fight often fall flat, without the pace or speed to them to hold interest. The one thing that Caple Jr. does well with these fights, even more so than Coogler did, is creating the visceral feeling of the blows. Every punch crunches with audible and visual cues that will leave you wincing.
Creed II isn’t as good as Creed. But it is still a bloody good boxing film.