I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
Published December 19th 2018
Hey, yo, Adrian, we did it yet again
Creed 2 hit the cinemas as the 8th film in the Rocky series, 42 years after the first film arrived in 1976. The film follows the story of Adonis Creed, son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed as he rises to the top and becomes world champion himself. This film begins with him becoming world champion. However, a challenger quickly arrives which will test everything Adonis has.
Many people probably forget that Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976, and when re-watching it, it's not hard to see why. The series and the character, however, are often disregarded a little as just a pop culture reference and has been over imitated and parodied, leading to Rocky often being seen as a bit of a cartoon character. But the series has endured on and had a surprising resurgence in recent years.
The original Rocky movie was fantastic, with a number of great aspects, such as Rocky yelling at Micky when Micky offers his services as a manager and trainer, the interplay between Rocky and the over the top Apollo, who thinks this is a show instead of a fight and almost goes down as a result. The movie captures a tough life perfectly, not glamorising anything along the way and giving a good honest look at a struggling everyman being thrown into a once in a lifetime opportunity and proving himself worthy of the chance to make it.
Rocky was followed by Rocky II in 1979. Rocky II hits many of the same beats as Rocky I, however, the change to Rocky winning kind of undoes the concept of the first film. Rocky isn't supposed to be the world champion, but if you can look past that, the sequel is a solid, if not a little slow, follow up.
The series took a slight turn in 1983 with Rocky III, which featured Mr T and a bizarre scene with Hulk Hogan, but still managed to find some depth to the storyline, particularly through the death of Micky, and Rocky losing his edge and needing Apollo's help to get it back.
In recent times, the series had a surprising comeback. Rocky V hit theatres in 1990 and was supposed to be the final film, with Rocky going full circle. However, the downbeat storyline and lack of a boxing match ending saw fans unhappy with the film and for 15 years, it was regarded as a series that ended poorly.
Then, in 2006, Rocky Balboa (Rocky VI) hit the screen and seemed like a film that should have been awful. When I first heard there was a 6th film, and it featured Rocky fighting the current world champion, I thought it would have to be terrible, as Stallone's Rocky was clearly going to be too old. But Rocky VI proved to be quite a solid film, even if the premise is lacking credibility. The film brought a new tone to the series, one that was more of a modern version of the original movie's tone. It seemed a fitting finish to the series.
But then, we got Creed in 2015, a spin-off and a sequel to Rocky Balboa. Creed did a clever thing and moved Rocky to a supporting role, whilst introducing the son of Apollo Creed into the mix, but continuing the Rocky storyline. Because Apollo Creed was such a big presence in the first four films, it opened the series up and gave a new generation someone to be inspired by, the same way children such as myself were inspired by Rocky in the 1980s. Creed did borrow heavily from the structure of the first Rocky, but managed to breathe some new life into the series and feel fresh.
Creed 2 could also be considered very similar in structure to Rocky 2, with and whilst it is a direct sequel to the first Creed, it is also a direct sequel to Rocky IV (1985). This added element adds a more interesting layer to the film, as the Creed storyline does get a little bogged down in going over familiar ground that Rocky 2 covered.
The Rocky IV element is an odd marriage, as the serious tone of this film feels at odds at times with its heritage, as Rocky IV is the most different of all the Rocky films. Now, don't get me wrong, as a child of the eighties, I love Rocky IV. But it's truly a cheesy film that really moves away from the tone of the first film. Sure, it features the series' most dramatic moment: the death of Apollo Creed, but it also has 32 minutes of montage, James Brown performing Living in America (in full!), whilst Apollo Creed dances around as Uncle Sam, a robot that has a relationship with Rocky's brother in law Paulie, and an ending in which Rocky seemingly ends the cold war with a short but cheddar filled post-fight speech about how everyone can change. It makes it tough for Creed 2 to build a serious storyline when you remember the film it's building from. But yet, somehow, it manages it.
First of all, it makes Ivan Drago, who had very few lines in Rocky IV, a much more human and sympathetic character. Dolph Lundgren's acting has come a long way since his Rocky IV and He-Man days. The film builds a relationship between him and his son Viktor and doesn't simply present Viktor as the evil Russian that must be defeated by Creed. It shows us the consequences of defeat on Ivan after Rocky IV and we feel for them, at least a little, and that helps lift the film above its Rocky IV genetics.
Michael B Jordon is in good form as Creed, although the character is a little less engaging overall than Rocky was. Jordan is excellent in the fight sequences but also handles the domestic scenes well, as Creed has to come to terms with his family situation, whilst being pressured by the looming battle with a seemingly unstoppable machine from Russia.
Stallone slips the character of Rocky on like it's an old T-Shirt that just feels easy to wear. He doesn't have as much to do in this one, as his character's main issue is again dealing with the distance formed between him and his son (didn't we already cover this in Rocky VI?).
The series moves forward, with new characters and a firm grip on the newly established tone set up in Rocky VI and the first Creed. The series continues to look back and ties the emotional journey of this film with the journey's taken in previous films, and it's impressive how well the film manages that without becoming lazy or too nostalgic. It also firmly drops some of the later films silliness. Perhaps Paulie's robot lover was just a bad dream Rocky had after been knocked out by Mr T.
Whilst it's not the best film in the series, and like Rocky 2, it does sag a little in a few places as domestic problems and mental demons plague our fighter and keep him from engaging in training montages, the film as a whole works well and is worth the trip to the cinema. Very few film series' reach 8 films and still hold your interest. It might have taken 42 years to reach 8 films, but it still works and fans of the characters should ensure they come and see this film. It's well worth it.