The good news is that it could have been aimed as strictly another moneymaker, with little or no art involved. Luckily, enough people have been retained from the first film to ensure that doesn’t happen, including Michael B. Jordan and – in his eighth turn as Rocky Balboa — Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote the picture.
If anyone knows how to work the “Rocky” formula, it certainly is Stallone … and after leaving much of the behind-the-scenes creativity to others the last time, he takes a premise that simply could have seemed like belaboring an earlier plot point in the series and makes it reasonably special.
Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, played by Jordan, prepares for a boxing match against the son of the man who killed his father in a professional fight. Dad, alias Ivan Drago, is played again by Dolph Lundgren … and fans who know their “Rocky” history will enjoy booing and hissing him all over again. Balboa isn’t at all happy about the prospective bout, which virtually guarantees it will happen.
Certainly, there is action to spare in “Creed II,” but there’s also room for development of one of the first film’s standout points: the hero’s romance with singer Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson. That gets substantially more screen time than in “Creed,” and it’s notable that the actress has said she watched “Rocky II” before starting her work on this, to see how the character Adrian (Talia Shire) was developed in the first follow-up.
Phylicia Rashad also is back, and “Rocky” loyalists also should enjoy seeing series returnee Brigitte Nielsen (a Stallone ex-wife in real life) again.
Much of what made the original “Creed” work was the surprise factor it brought, managing to refresh something familiar to a very great extent. Some of that novelty is gone now, which generally is the case with any sequel; it’s even more the fact here, since the general elements and structure date back more than four decades to the first “Rocky.” Stallone certainly knew what he was doing then as writer and star, and what he set down those many years ago remains durable.
Indeed, “Creed II” is a worthwhile sequel on sum – thanks in no small part to a continuing contender named Sylvester Stallone.