Following my first viewing of Creed (2015) which I very much enjoyed, I quickly moved onto the sequel to see if the magic and excitement from the first film would be retained. Just two years after the events of Creed, Creed II follows the same fantastic cast with Michael B. Jordan in the lead and Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson at his side. However, two new cast members were introduced to the series, one of which you might find familiar. That’s right, for all you Rocky fans, Dolph Lundgren returns as Ivan Drago, but this time around, he’s brought his son Viktor, played by Florian Munteanu, to the party. With old rivalries brought to the forefront once again, Creed II proves to be an exhilarating sequel, but unfortunately, not one that I would consider to be better than the first.

[Please note this review will contain spoilers; read at your own discretion]

Adonis Creed about the enter the ring with Rocky Balboa in his corner

As I mentioned already in my Creed review, Creed II once again brings back old plot points and characters that may be hard to grasp if you’ve never watched the original Rocky films. With Ivan Drago being the boxer that killed Adonis’ father, Apollo Creed in the ring and Rocky being the boxer that defeated Drago, there was certainly this air of tension that surrounded all the characters. The problem was, I struggled to relate to this history that was being unraveled. So while I fully understood that there was a lot riding on Adonis’ shoulders with this fight against the son of the father who killed his own father (tongue twister that one), I do feel that the effectiveness of all this built up anger and pressure didn’t work as strongly for someone like me versus someone who could appreciate the history behind it. Of course, this is just my experience with the film, yours could be entirely different.

And that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the film bringing back Drago as an antagonist. Once I knew the relationship he had with both Rocky and Adonis, I definitely enjoyed seeing how bringing back these old enemies not only gave Adonis new motivation and strength, but they were compelling obstacles that he needed to overcome to grow as a person and a boxer. They filmmakers could’ve gone down a very repetitive and uninspiring path, so I appreciate them finding a way to introduce a new opponent that didn’t make the audience feel bored or like we were stuck in the same cycle. There was clear development being made with Adonis’ character, and I really liked being able to see that.

Ivan and Viktor Drago in Creed II

But speaking of Viktor Drago, I have to say, Florian Munteanu was an absolute beast of a human being in Creed II. Recognizing him as Razor Fist from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), I already knew how menacing he could appear to be, but still, he surprised me. I was genuinely impressed by how vicious and bloodthirsty he was, and seeing him side by side with Jordan made me question how Adonis could possibly beat him. While Munteanu didn’t have many lines (it was definitely more of an appearance heavy role), he still did a good job portraying a difficult opponent with a difficult upbringing.

And of course, with a new challenging opponent comes another intense training montage. It definitely felt different this second time around though, with Adonis facing plenty of new obstacles that toyed with his mental health. I liked seeing that there was a different driving factor for this sequel – instead of fighting for a name, this time Adonis was fighting to keep it. There were a lot of emotional moments building up to the training and redemption arc, most notably Adonis recovering from being brutally beat by Viktor the first time and dealing with the stress of having a newborn daughter, but I felt like these were all necessary steps to break Adonis down so he could be rebuilt. So when we finally get to see Adonis standing back up on his feet and training with Rocky in the desert to become stronger, that montage just hit even better.

Adonis Creed warming up for a fight

When the final fight between Adonis and Viktor came around, the excitement and anticipation was at an all time high. Creed II definitely hyped up this moment and it’s certainly the kind of “make it or break it” moment for Adonis in terms of his career. One thing I think this movie improved upon from the first was its boxing sequences. The camera movements in this one felt a lot quicker and snappier, allowing the audience to really feel the intensity of the fight. I thought the camera shots also just looked better overall, so in terms of the fighting, I thought it was really well done.

But what I didn’t like (unfortunately) was how the final battle itself felt strangely anti-climactic. I personally really liked seeing how Ivan sacrificed the fight and his reputation to save his son from being completely beaten, but there was something about the delivery of the scene that felt…unsatisfying? I’m not quite sure what it is, but there was a moment when the white flag was tossed in where I thought, “oh, is it finished?”. Thinking back on it, it might just be that I felt the final fight was rushed or that the rounds progressed too quickly, but there was just something lacking there that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Viktor Drago in the ring

Although there is a sort of “genericness” to Creed II with the classic comeback story, I still really enjoyed it and appreciated what the new opponent had to offer in terms of progressing Adonis’ story. I’m sure bringing back Ivan Drago was a real treat for fans, and it was a great way to get the audience interested in what was going to happen in this movie. I didn’t really mention Stallone in this review because I’ve praised him so much in my review for Creed, but I just want to quickly say he was fantastic again as Rocky. Part of why I’m enjoying these films so much is seeing the chemistry between Rocky and Adonis and watching them develop as people together. While I did enjoy Creed II less than the first, I’m still going to give it a great 7.5/10. Upholding all the emotion and exciting action of the first, I’d argue Creed II is a worthy sequel that gets me excited for what’s next.