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Medved: ‘Creed II’ is a Rocky sequel that delivers

It’s three stars for “Creed II,” the latest in the Rocky film legacy. As usual, there are some scenes on the art museum steps and a great affection for the City of Brotherly Love – not so much for Moscow.

This film draws from a story going way back to 1985’s “Rocky IV.” Ivan Drago is a Russian fighter, a killing machine. He’s a huge imposing guy played by Dolph Lundgren. Rocky fought Ivan Drago, after Drago kills his friend, Apollo Creed, in the ring.

“Creed II” is set up as a generational fight. Ivan Drago has trained his son – who is even bigger and more imposing than he is – to be champion of the world. He is going to fight Apollo Creed’s son — Adonis. Everyone tells Adonis “Don’t do it. This is the same family that killed your father.” And it certainly seems like Ivan wants his son to kill Adonis. Of course, it is a boxing movie. There are fights. This film is PG-13 for gory boxing violence.

This is a very traditional movie. There are good guys and bad guys. The good guys, at least, have enough dimensions to them and a warmth that you end up really caring about this movie.

All the performances here are great. Tessa Thompson played Creed’s girlfriend in the first movie. Now she’s more than a girlfriend. And there’s a baby. She’s wonderful in the film. Michael B. Jordan is a superstar – he’s extremely watchable. Both have real chemistry together and both are intensely likable.

Sylvester Stallone gives his least cartoonish performance of Rocky here. But also, Stallone shines as a screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay for the original Rocky. He peddled the idea and producers originally didn’t want him to play the title role because he was too small and old. He insisted, and the rest is cinema history. I don’t know of another cinema series that has gone on this long with the same star playing the same roles. It’s going on 42 years since the first Rocky.

When you get down to it, this is a Rocky movie. We are not talking about nuance, or intellectual sophistication. Yet, this is a very watchable movie, just like the other Creed film, which had energy and pizzazz. You can jump into this Creed film without watching the first and this sequel may not be quite as successful as its predecessor. But it’s hard to imagine anybody being frustrated or disappointed in “Creed II” – it delivers.

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