If you’ve been around as long as Rocky, you recognize many of the hallmarks in “Creed II.”
This isn’t a re-imagining – as the first “Creed” was – but a reboot of the old “Rocky” films.
Now, Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is the heavyweight champ and he’s the target of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), who just happens to be the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his dad in the ring.
The retributive nature of a match is too good to ignore and, yes, it does happen, complete with Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) in his son’s corner.
Adonis doesn’t have Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) barking orders but he does have enough bells and whistles to make this a very special HBO broadcast.
As you might imagine, it’s not a fair fight and, soon, Donny or “D” or whatever else his friends call him, has to regroup and rethink what he really wants in life.
Key to all that is his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who has a few challenges of her own.
Director Steven Caple Jr. lets hints of past “Rockys” slip into his ring and isn’t about to let the big palooka sit this one out (Stallone also co-wrote the screenplay, so there’s that). Rocky trains Adonis in his own, barebones way and gets him to channel his anger.
A rematch is a given, particularly since there’s another generation, a paternal specter and a piano version of the “Rocky” theme to foreshadow everything.
Caple, though, doesn’t give us enough about the Dragos. What has Ivan been doing all these years? Why did his son follow him into the business? What motivates them? And why is mom (Brigitte Nielsen) at the table?
The film is so one-sided you can’t even consider cheering for anyone but Adonis.
Jordan makes the choice easy, but it might have been nice to see some of the demons haunting Viktor.
Instead, Rocky has the conscience crisis, revealing some of his own unfinished business.
While “Creed II” lasts a little longer than it should (the fights don’t need to go on as long as they do), it brings tears and gives those who have been loyal a chance to reflect on 40-some years of films.
Stallone is as good as he was in “Creed,” but isn’t given as much to do. Phylicia Rashad (as Apollo’s widow) fares better, particularly since she gets moments with each of the principals that amount to pep talks.
“It’s your time,” Rocky tells Adonis and, indeed, Jordan seizes it. He’s a great franchise player, able to extend this as long as Stallone milked “Rambo.”
“Creed II” needed Ryan Coogler’s vision to really be more than a sequel. He made us care about the budding boxer. Caple assumes it’s business as usual.