Movie review: ‘Creed II’

Brad Keefe
Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in 'Creed II'

It's been three years since “Creed” showed us how to do a reboot right.

The “Rocky” franchise was beloved but overstayed its welcome. In telling the story of Adonis Creed, director Ryan Coogler and his frequent collaborator and star Michael B. Jordan created a tale that bridged generations.

They also did a little movie in between. You may have heard of it. It's called “Black Panther.”

Scheduling conflicts kept Coogler out of the director's chair for “Creed II,” but the spirit remains, particularly with Jordan, who is doing his part to make the younger Creed an indelible character.

The sequel isn't in the same lofty space as the first “Creed,” but it's a sure crowd-pleaser with some added emotional punch.

“Creed II” centers on the events of one of the most popular “Rocky” sequels, “Rocky IV,” and it's surprisingly effective if not a bit hampered by its predictable adherence to the franchise formula.

Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Jordan) continues his meteoric rise in the boxing world as his relationship with his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) also takes new steps forward.

Meanwhile, in Russia …

It's been 33 years since Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) lost in the ring to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a moment that changed Drago's life for the worse, knocking from national hero to disgrace in a 10-count.

He's been training his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), to be the same kind of brutal, overpowering boxer he once was.

Viktor challenges Donnie to a high-profile fight with an undertone that is positively Shakespearean. If you recall “Rocky IV,” the elder Drago killed the elder Creed in the ring.

While the series has a new director in Steven Caple Jr., “Creed II” stays in a similar lane, building emotion around the characters (seriously, there's a lot going on here) that's punctuated with sports drama.

To either a boxing promoter or a Hollywood executive, the idea of Creed-Drago rematch seems obvious. In fact, it seems some of that melodrama could have been developed more, but, again, there's a lot going on here.

Jordan does his part to elevate things both in and out of the ring, and having an actor of this caliber is what makes me want more sequels.

Likewise, it's great to see Stallone find new layers in an older, wiser Rocky. And while support is great throughout (Thompson as Bianca and Phylicia Rashad as Creed's mother, in particular), a real surprise is the depth Lundgren brings in limited screen time.

The biggest drag on “Creed II” is, well, it's predictably everything you expect. I guess some people like that.

Opens Thursday

3 stars out of 5

“Creed II”