FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Creed II’ is an unexpectedly great sequel

FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Creed II’ is an unexpectedly great sequel

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Michael B. Jordan has enjoyed a rocketing career since first gaining visibility on NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” where he played Vince Howard. He also starred as the antagonist in this year’s biggest film, “Black Panther,” as Killmonger.

He is a solid and dependable actor and teaming up with Sylvester Stallone in 2015’s “Creed” also proved to be an excellent choice. Now, following in the footsteps of the original “Rocky” films, comes “Creed II.”

This surprisingly great sequel picks up months after its predecessor and Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Jordan) has been building up his reputation to where he is challenging for the same belt once held by his own father, Apollo. After a resounding win against an opponent that even the ring announcers deem to have lost some of his power in the last few years, Adonis gets to enjoy the limelight for a bit. He returns to Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and considers his next move.

Simultaneously, swooping in unnoticed comes the grudge-holding Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu). Ivan confronts Rocky at his restaurant, Ristorante Adrians, and reveals that after he was defeated, he was cast out and has lived like a pariah in Russia. Not only does Ivan want redemption but he wants his son to have a shot at the title.

Taking its cues from some of the previous Rocky movies, “Creed II” explores the same feelings of competition, personal recognition, but also revenge and hatred of an opponent. However, the film also does something unexpected and explores the male ego, aggression, the alpha male chest-pounding nature, but especially and surprisingly, the relationships between fathers and sons.

There is a poignancy in the back half of this film where you begin to see how some of these parents are living vicariously through their children, while the children are longing for their parents love and acceptance. It is not uncommon really, all you have to do is watch the behavior of some fathers out on the flag football field or at the baseball diamond during Little League season. Fathers that crave fame and success for their children, while the boys seek to please their dads. It’s a great narrative examining this look at legacy and what we are leaving behind for the next generation. Rocky’s own regret at his nonexistent and failed relationship with his son is examined, as is Ivan’s overbearing control over his son, not to mention Viktor’s desire to gain his mother’s love and most glaringly, Apollo’s looming shadow over Adonis. There’s some deep stuff here besides the well-choreographed ring scenes.

Those ring scenes should not be discounted, they’re far superior to the Stallone films of decades gone by. In this high-definition, curved 4k Ultra technology landscape, you can’t have boxing sequences where the punches thrown are clearly a foot away from the target. The glitz, glamour and extravagance, especially in boxer entrances, is dead on.

Stallone returns as Rocky Balboa for what may be his last time. “Creed II” is a great sequel and actually helps the character grow and mature. It also differs in the fact that not everything is wrapped up in a pretty bow, showing that life sometimes throws you a combination.

The film is rated PG13.

Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis, son of Apollo Creed, to take on the son of Ivan Drago, in “Creed II”