Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.
Written by: Cheo Hodari Coker, Ryan Coogler, Sascha Penn, Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu

Review by Jason Payne

Prior to the release of the first Creed film, there was much skepticism about the new direction of the franchise. The franchise was handed over to Ryan Coogler, popular among his peers but still relatively unknown to the masses. The film ended up being well received by critics and audiences. And after three years we have a sequel that not only stands out in the franchise but possibly outshines its predecessor in several areas.

Creed II goes in a direction that many assumed it would go but wasn’t sure how it would arrive there. Thanks to marketing, the fight between Adonis Creed and Viktor Drago is the attraction that will get audiences to show up. But the journey these characters have been on the last thirty years is the main attraction. Creed and Drago arrive at similar conclusions by going different routes in the most dramatic film of the franchise since the first one.

One of the great things about the Rocky franchise as a whole is its sense of continuity. When there’s a change in director and crew, there’s often a drop in quality. Coogler was part of the process from the very beginning, and its evident in who he picked as his replacement. He also had a hand in structuring the dialog for the film. Cinematographer Maryse Alberti has a been a staple of Coogler’s films from the beginning.

We have Kramer Morgenthau on cinematography who does an excellent job of making the film seem familiar from a visual standpoint. Even using Coogler’s signature behind the shoulders shot that’s in all of his films. The fight choreography and filming of the fights are better as well. The fights are filmed in such a way that members of the audience got caught up in the moment like it was an actual fight.

The story execution is tighter than its predecessor due to being handled by Cheo Hodari Coker. You may remember Coker was the showrunner for Netflix’s Luke Cage. Coker is known for squeezing every bit of emotion of characters, and he lives up to that reputation as a writer.

The dialog also seems to flow naturally as well. Between the writing and the talent of the actors, you actually begin to believe that Tessa Thompson and Michael B. Jordan are engaged. Phylicia Rashad will make you have flashbacks of every argument you’ve had with your mother. Florian Munteanu as the least amount of dialog of the main cast but gives one of the most emotional scenes of the franchise when he’s asked to step up during a key moment in the film. This is Munteanu’s first film, and I doubt it will be the last we see of him.

Audiences can rest assured that the franchise is in safe hands. Though Coogler and Jordan have stated they will only do a third film if it makes sense, I sincerely doubt that we’ll have to wait that long since Stallone has officially passed the torch to Jordan. The Creed chapter of the franchise has put out two quality films with two different crews. It shouldn’t be too difficult to do a third or fourth of similar quality.

VERDICT: Watch it. Not only watch it but buy it when the home release is available. Creed II is a gripping tale of legacy, responsibility, expectations, and family. Its one of the best films of the year.

Jason Payne

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