After high praise from critics and audiences alike for Ryan Coogler’s Creed, the film series is back with a new director, Steven Capel Jr. Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis Creed, a respected boxer, whose position, and confidence, wavers with a challenge from Viktor Drago, the son of the man who killed his father, Ivan Drago. With the Drago’s return to the franchise, Adonis’ history has caught up with him and he must reconcile with the conflicted feelings the challenges provoke as his life rapidly changes.
Returning as the titular character, Michael B. Jordan brings his natural charisma and heart to the role the masses fell in love with in the original 2015 film. As he embarks on his next journey as world champion and father, Jordan wholeheartedly portrays the boxer’s insecurity despite the praise surrounding him. He allows Adonis to show his fractured spirit regardless of his chiseled physique and does a great job of expressing how each match, win or lose, means more than the outcome for his character. Despite the film not having as strong of a story as its predecessor, its star remains to be the worthy of the title.
Tessa Thompson is given a bit more material to work with this time around as Bianca and she fully utilizes this space. As her music career continues to progress, she’s met with one of the biggest challenges she’ll ever face—having a child. While nervously excited for her daughter’s arrival, Bianca, and Adonis, must consider that her child might be born deaf, too. Thompson excellently illustrates her character’s worry. There’s a very distinct line between worrying that a hearing impairment may cause Bianca to love her child less and worrying her daughter may have to face some of the same hardships, and Thompson thoughtfully portrays the latter scenario.
The last time audiences saw Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, he was battling cancer with his mentee and “nephew”‘s support. This time around, Rocky has recovered from his bout of illness but something is still missing. Adonis is moving forward with his new life with Bianca and their awaited child, and Rocky is left alone to figure out what he’s going to do, being the last man standing in Philadelphia. As usual, Stallone does a good job of showing Rocky’s twinges of sadness and unconformability in reaching out to those who matter to him most, including Adonis and his long estranged son, Robert.
The Creed sequel has a lot of interesting character arcs but never fully expands enough to match, or improve, the emotional punch of the original Creed film. Jordan works well with the story he is provided, but, although it’s clear to other characters and audiences that his insecurity isn’t largely because of his father, the film never elaborates on the root to his struggle. Viktor is given an intriguing storyline as he desperately tries to please his father and get accepted back into Russian society, but the Dragos’ moments are too brief, and sometimes insignificant, to do the story justice. Florian Munteanue, the newcomer who plays Viktor, offers such tender glimpses into his heart, but only at the very end of the film. Adonis and Viktor have a fascinating parallel characterization of being haunted by their fathers, dead and alive, but these actions are never adequately explored, to the sequel’s detriment.