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Creed II (2018)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 3/5/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/25/2019
I often find myself being quite curious about the second season of television shows. Why? Because my gut feeling is that in many cases, the creators never dreamed that their series would be renewed for a sophomore outing, so they are forced to scramble to piece together some episodes. While the first season can often seems tight and cohesive, by comparison, the second season can come across as meandering and rudderless. Can the same thing happen with movie sequels? 2015’s Creed appeared to be a gamble. Would jump-starting the Rocky franchise for a new generation be a wise move? And yet, the film became a minor hit, grossing over $100 million at the domestic box-office (and earning an Oscar nomination for Sylvester Stallone). And, when a movie makes a little bit of money, you know what that means? Sequel!
Creed II takes us back into the world introduced in the first film, as Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is still attempting to put together a professional boxing career and live up to his father’s legacy, all under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He wins a string of fights, including a victory which makes him the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Similarly, Adonis’ relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is growing, as he asks her to marry him. Meanwhile, in the Ukraine, disgraced Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is training his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), to be a powerful fighter. When a promoter (Russell Hornsby) attempts to set up a match between Adonis and Viktor, Rocky advises against it. But, Adonis sees this as a change to symbolically avenge his father’s death and accepts the challenges. Thus begins the darkest period in Adonis’ life.
In our recent review for the 2018 reboot of Halloween, we discussed the incredibly lazy writing which went into the film, as it revealed itself to be a Frankenstein-like patchwork of various films from the Halloween series. We get a similar effect with Creed II, as the film is an odd amalgam of Rocky III and Rocky IV. Stallone, along with Co-writers Cheo Hodari Coker, Sascha Penn, and Juel Taylor, has cherry-picked ideas and themes from these films, seemingly at random. The most obvious one is the call-back to Rocky IV with Ivan Drago, the man who beat Apollo Creed to death the boxing ring, suddenly re-appearing with his son, which oddly mirrors how Rocky has trained Adonis. Hmmm… However, there’s a lot more going on here. While the Rocky IV connection is obvious, the movie takes much more from Rocky III (which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, as it’s the best movie in the series). Just as in that film, one boxer trains in a nice gym, surrounded by admirers and paparazzi, while the other prepares in more meager surroundings. When Adonis is forced to re-focus himself, Rocky takes him to California, where he must take his training back to the basics, just like Rocky did in Rocky III. It’s almost as if the filmmakers fed Rocky III and Rocky IV into and editing machine and Creed II appeared.
And when you examine the film was this angle, you see the calculated risk that those filmmakers were taking. Would the young audience who was there to see Michael B. Jordan have any idea that they were watching recycled ideas? Most sports movies are filled with clichés, but this one takes plot points directly from the other films in the Rocky series and presents them as brand-new. Was it an attempt to elicit nostalgia from older members of the audience? Either way, the result is a movie which provides few, if any, surprises, save for the sudden appearance of Brigitte Nielsen.
Having said all of that, Creed II isn’t a bad movie, it’s just an incredibly unoriginal one. Director Steven Caple Jr. takes over the reins from Ryan Coogler and does a fine job shooting the film. Jordan and Stallone have clearly settled into their roles and the chemistry works well. Stallone rarely gets the credit which he deserves, but he’s wholly believable as Rocky and one gets the sense that his dialogue is all spontaneous. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and the ending provides a satisfying ending to this series (assuming that it’s the end). Still, the whole thing feels like the fast-food version of a meal which should be more fulfilling. If you’ve never seen Rocky III and Rocky IV, then you are in for a treat with Creed II. If you’re familiar with those films, prepare yourself for two hours of, “I’ve already seen this movie.”
Creed II should have made everyone fight while standing inside of a tire on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, although we don’t get many bright tones here, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth works well, most notably in the fight scenes, and the level of detail is impressive. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a well-balanced track which shows its power during the fight sequences, as we get the roar of the crowd from the rear speakers, while each punch is felt through the subwoofer. The sounds coming from off-screen are nicely highlighted in the stereo channels.
All of the extra features for Creed II are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. “Fathers & Sons” (7 minutes) looks at the link that Adonis and Viktor create between the earlier Rocky films and how themes of family and “the sins of the father” are explored. “Casting Viktor Drago” (6 minutes) profiles Florian Munteanu, looking at how he got the role. We also hear from others involved in the film, all of whom comment on how big he is. “The Women of Creed II” (6 minutes) allows Phylicia Rashad and Tessa Thompson a chance to talk about their characters and how they are portrayed. For some reason, Sugar Ray Leonard chimes in with comments. “The Rocky Legacy” (15 minutes) is a mini-documentary which provides an overview of the Rocky films and looks at their cultural impact. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. We get an interesting scene which was taken from the ending that is worth checking out.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long