March 11, 2019  (Web Review)

Creed II

Warner, 130 min., PG-13, DVD: $28.98, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $35.99, Mar. 5

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

In 2015, Ryan Coogler’s Creed reinvigorated Sylvester Stallone’s iconic Rocky franchise. This satisfying sequel traces its antecedents back to Rocky IV (1985), which was set during the Cold War. That is when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) died during a brutal fight with Soviet-trained Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Since Rocky Balboa acceded to Apollo’s demand not to throw in the towel “no matter what,” he is riddled with regret. He later avenges Apollo’s death, but his triumph comes at a cost. Flash forward to present day Philadelphia, where Apollo’s illegitimate son, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), is now World Heavyweight Champion. When he’s challenged by still-bitter Ivan’s son, hulking Viktor (Florian Munteanu), Adonis wants vengeance for his father’s death. Raised in Ukraine and trained by Ivan, formidable Viktor is keenly aware that his disgraced father lost everything: “Country, love, respect,” including his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), who walked out when Ivan was scorned by Russia’s elite. Meanwhile, Adonis marries his musician girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), who is worried that her congenital hearing loss will be passed on to their baby. Returning cast members Jordan, Stallone, Thompson, and Phylicia Rashad (who plays Adonis’s stepmother) deliver strong performances, as do Lundgren and Munteanu, who add surprising emotional depth to their now-empathetic characters. Adonis and Viktor emerge as poignantly kindred spirits whose fates were sealed by their fathers. Recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include a “Rocky’s Legacy” retrospective featurette (15 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are deleted scenes (10 min.), the production featurettes “Fathers and Sons” (8 min.), “Casting Victor Drago” (6 min.), and “The Women” (6 min.), and bonus DVD and digital copies of the film. Bottom line: a solid extras package for a winning sequel.] (S. Granger)