The classy move would have been for the Rocky franchise to bow out with ‘Creed’. That film was way better than it had any right to be. It also has one of my favourite scenes in the series where Adonis, Creed and Bianca are jubilant after his first professional win and decide to go and celebrate. The next scene finds all three asleep in front of a Bond film with a half finished take away on the table. The film also provided a great exit for Rocky. So I was a bit ambivalent when I read there was to be a ‘Creed II’ until it was announced that Ivan Drago from Rocky IV was coming back, “Fuck! When’s it out?”.
I really love the Rocky films, and not in an ironic hipster way (well maybe a little bit). The first film is a very solid, finely crafted story doomed always to be in the shadow of ‘Raging Bull’ (justifiably). As the series went on the films became increasingly ridiculous, but more fun and crammed full of montages. In preparation for "‘Creed II’ I re-watched Rocky IV which has four montages, count um! Four! That film is probably the reason I have an obsession for over training and growing beards. ‘Rocky V’ is a low point of the series and the one I’ve watched the least, I will have to revisit it soon, in case I’ve done it a disservice, I doubt it though. I was happy when the comeback film ‘Rocky Balboa’ was announced in 2006. It’s far from perfect - it’s central conceit is pretty farcical - but it had a very satisfying emotional centre, it showed the characters moving on and dealing with grief and old age. It provided a more fitting end to the series than ‘Rocky V’, but if there’s one thing you learn about Rocky it’s never to count him out, sorry.
’Creed’ not only managed to revive a series everyone thought was dead, it treated the legacy of the films with creativity and respect. This is something that ‘Creed II’ shares with it’s predecessor. Bringing Ivan Drago back with his son Scouly Drago in tow makes perfect sense and does provide the film with an emotional gravitas. Dolph Lundgren is very impressive as the older Drago who manages to look both world weary and bitter at his country and wife for turning their back on him, while still showing the gimlet eyed steel on occasion from ‘Rocky IV’. Although there is scene right at the end of the film where Lundgren is running with Scowly and Lundgren has a very odd running style, it looks like he’s doing the Lambeth walk.
Many of the Rocky tropes are all in ‘Creed II’ including the training montage (Horrah!) and the ‘I’m not gonna train ya!’/’I am gonna train ya!’ push and pull. The film is hardly original, but who knew a towel could have such emotional weight? It gives the structures of the previous Rocky films a new gum shield and shorts and sends it back into the ring, but blimey it punches above it's weight, sorry. Me and my best mate Matthew Hampton were pretty much laughing with glee during the final bout and when they (cynically?) drop the Rocky theme in during round 10 I want to get up and punch the air!
’The Godather’ it ain’t, but there’s enough intelligentially handled callbacks to make this fanboy very happy. To be honest I’d go back and see it again today if I could.