5 Things I Want to See Happen In “Creed II”
2015’s Creed managed to breathe new life into the storied Rocky franchise. After 2006’s Rocky Balboa, I thought we’d seen the last of the Italian Stallion and it felt like an appropriate sendoff. I was wary of another quasi-entry three years ago, however I was pleasantly surprised. Creed turned out to be one of the best movies of the year and in my opinion contained the best performance of Stallone’s career. Seriously, I was shocked at how great his role in that film was. Credit that to a rousing and layered script by Ryan Coogler. In addition, what was great about the Michael B. Jordan led boxing film, was how it stood on its own. This wasn’t Rocky VII which it very well could have been.
In a few short weeks we will see the next chapter in Adonis Creed’s tale as Creed II will hit theaters (hopefully) with a powerful punch. We will also see the return of one of the most iconic villains in film history–Ivan Drago, once again played by Dolph Lundgren. Creed II will follow Ivan Drago’s son Victor, as he challenges Adonis to a powerhouse fight dripping with history and layered with revenge. Yet I hope it’s not that straightforward. It would be a travesty to followup a nuanced and Oscar worthy film in Creed, with fan service pabulum. In order for this film to succeed it HAS to be more than just a simple revenge tale, although obviously revenge and “the sins of the father” will play a key role.
With that in mind, here are five things I hope to see in Creed II.
Ivan Drago’s Backstory Post Rocky IV
Until I found out Creed II was happening and that the Dragos would be involved, I didn’t care about what happened to Ivan Drago after he got his ass kicked by Rocky, thirty-three years ago. However, now it has to be vital to the story. Drago was an Olympic champion and in clips we’ve heard him tell Rocky, “Because of you I lose everything.” Well what exactly does that mean? I’m thinking there were some severe penalties, like losing his boxing license, having to do manual labor, being exiled to Siberia…something like that. In addition, he’s probably shunned by his own people, a failure and a disgrace. We know from the preview that Victor is “raised in hate.” Clearly, it’s a motivator. However, it will make for a much more fleshed out and possibly even sympathetic character if we find out the trials and tribulations the Dragos have gone through. Because let’s be honest, there wasn’t a lot of character development to Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. He was pretty one note. And that’s fine because it worked for that film. That’s not going to be enough for a film like Creed II however.
A Fully Developed Villain in Victor Drago
Rocky IV was a product of its time. It’s firmly entrenched in 80s Cold War politics and wears the “Us Vs. Them” mentality firmly on its sleeve. And that’s fine! No one was really expecting a deep dive four installments into a major franchise. Consequently, as I mentioned before, we got a one note if iconic villain in Ivan Drago that epitomized the evil of the Soviet Union. Victor Drago cannot be a photocopy of his father. It won’t work this time. There has to be more to him. We have to see why he became a boxer, we have to see what the relationship dynamic is like between him and his father and how that plays in to fighting Adonis. In truth I’d really like to see some kind of out of the ring conversation between him and Adonis. It doesn’t have to be Shakespearean, but just having these guys only meet and talk in the ring with a couple of one-liners is going to be a disservice to the film.
A Match and a Rematch Against Victor Drago
Now I know this may seem a little too much like Rocky III but hear me out. It makes so much more sense from a character development standpoint for Adonis to lose the first fight and (presumably) his title and then regain it in the second fight. Based on the trailers it looks like his hubris and single-mindedness to exclusion of all other things will trip him up. Presumably, he’s going to learn that family is the most important thing, what’s worth fighting for, etc. While it has the chance of coming off as a tired trope I’m really hoping director Steve Caple Jr. doesn’t let it sink to into schmaltzy sentimentality.
An Evolution in the Bianca/Adonis Dynamic
One of the major delights of Creed was Tessa Thompson’s performance as Bianca, Adonis Creed’s love interest. She was a fully formed character, a singer trying to make it in a difficult industry while dealing with the loss of hearing. They fit together perfectly and the chemistry between Jordan and Thompson was palpable. There needs to be more of that. Clearly they have a child together now. How does that factor in? Has it changed their relationship? What I’m saying is that I don’t want Thompson’s Bianca to turn into Talia Shire’s Adrian, a character who as the Rocky franchise went on served only to cheer on Rocky without having any agency. Bianca has to be as vital a player in Adonis’ decision to fight Victor Drago as Rocky is. Anything less will be a step backwards.
No Set-up for Creed III
A fundamental strength of the first Creed was it was a film that stood on its own merits. It was a self-contained story that didn’t need or beggar a sequel, even though the success of the film meant it would inevitably happen. As the Rocky franchise (and to a lesser extent Rambo) went on, there came to be an expectation that every few years there would be another film, with increasingly diminishing returns. That’s the last thing I want from a sequel to Creed. The best thing this film could do is to mimic its predecessor. Keep it a self-contained film that stands on its own without the pressure of a “franchise.” In fact if this film is successful enough, I would not be opposed to it ending with Creed II. No one needs to see Creed IV where Adonis fights Clubber Lang’s kid. If we get a Creed III great, but in an era where every film seems to be a set up for the next or a shared universe, it’s nice to have a simple and enjoyable sequel.
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