|Directed by||Steven Caple Jr.|
by Sylvester Stallone
|Music by||Ludwig Göransson|
|Box office||$214.1 million|
Creed II is a 2018 American sports drama film directed by Steven Caple Jr. and written by Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor from a story by Sascha Penn and Cheo Hodari Coker. A sequel to 2015's Creed and the eighth installment in the Rocky franchise, it stars Michael B. Jordan, Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Wood Harris and Phylicia Rashad. Creed writer-director Ryan Coogler serves as an executive producer on the film. The film follows a fight over 33 years in the making, as Donnie Creed meets a new adversary in the ring: Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, the powerful athlete who took the life of Donnie's father Apollo Creed in 1985's Rocky IV.
A Creed sequel was confirmed in January 2016, but due to both Coogler and Jordan's involvement in Black Panther, the film was delayed, with Coogler ultimately being replaced by Caple. Stallone completed the script in July 2017 and announced Lundgren would be reprising his role as Drago, and filming began in Philadelphia in March 2018, lasting through June.
Creed II was released in North America by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer through their distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures (which was later rebranded as United Artists Releasing) and internationally by Warner Bros. Pictures on November 21, 2018. The film grossed $214 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances (particularly Stallone, Jordan, and Lundgren), character development, and Caple's direction, while noting its predictability.
In 2018, three years after his loss to "Pretty" Ricky Conlan,[a] Donnie Creed has won six straight bouts, culminating in a victory over Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler to win the WBC World Heavyweight Championship, including getting his 1965 Ford Mustang back. Now a worldwide star, Donnie proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca Taylor, who agrees to marry him. When Bianca suggests starting a new life together in Los Angeles, Donnie is reluctant to leave Philadelphia as it would mean leaving Rocky.
Ivan Drago, the former Soviet boxer who killed Donnie's father Apollo Creed during a bout in 1985 before losing to Rocky Balboa,[b] seeks an opportunity to regain glory. Assisted by promoter Buddy Marcelle, Ivan pits his son, Viktor Drago, against Donnie. When Rocky refuses to support Donnie's decision to accept Viktor's challenge, Donnie leaves for Los Angeles.
Donnie and Bianca settle down in a luxurious apartment in Los Angeles close to Donnie's adoptive mother and Apollo's widow, Mary Anne. As they adjust to their new life and prepare for the upcoming match, Bianca learns that she is pregnant. Donnie recruits Tony "Little Duke" Evers, son of his father's trainer and later Rocky's trainer, to start training him. Overwhelmed by his life's recent developments, he rushes into the match and is badly injured. Viktor is disqualified for hitting Donnie while he is down, allowing Donnie to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. However, Viktor becomes extremely popular in Russia and wins a series of fights with top billing.
His body and ego shattered, Donnie becomes increasingly disconnected from Bianca. Mary Anne reaches out to Rocky, who reconciles with Donnie and agrees to train him for a rematch against Viktor, who is suffering torturous physical tests at Ivan's hands, easily overcoming all of them. Bianca gives birth to a daughter, Amara, and Rocky is named her godfather; however, Donnie and Bianca realize Amara is born deaf, inheriting it from her mother's progressive hearing disorder.
While Viktor taunts Donnie publicly, he faces constant pressure from his father behind the scenes, who enjoys the attentions of the media and various Russian delegates. At a state dinner, he and Ivan meet Ludmilla, his mother and Ivan's ex-wife, for the first time in several years after she abandoned them after Ivan's loss to Rocky. Enraged at the sight of her, Viktor chastises Ivan for interacting with the people who cast them out in the first place. Meanwhile, Rocky and Little Duke retrain Donnie in a decrepit location in the California desert, focusing on fighting from within and training Donnie's body to absorb the heavy impact he will receive from Viktor in the ring.
In Moscow, the rematch is more balanced as a more controlled and focused Donnie exchanges equal blows with Viktor. Since Viktor is accustomed to winning by knockout, his fights have never lasted beyond the fourth round; Donnie uses this to his advantage and willingly endures a heavy beating from Viktor, even after his ribs are broken. In the tenth round, Donnie unleashes sequence after sequence of effective blows and knocks Viktor down twice. Ludmilla departs after the second knockdown, upsetting Viktor, and Ivan sees the truth of Viktor's earlier statements. An exhausted Viktor is cornered and receives multiple strikes without defending himself, but is unwilling to go down. Realizing that his son's safety means more to him than acceptance from Russia's elite, Ivan throws in the towel, forfeiting the fight to protect his son. He assures the distraught Viktor it is okay that he lost, and embraces him. As Bianca enters the ring to celebrate with Donnie and Little Duke, Rocky recuses himself, telling Donnie that "It's your time", and takes a seat to watch them from outside the ring.
Viktor and Ivan later train together back in Ukraine. Donnie visits Apollo's grave, where he makes peace with his deceased father and the burden of carrying on his legacy, as he and Bianca introduce his granddaughter, who is wearing a new set of hearing aids. Rocky travels to Vancouver to make peace with his own estranged son, Robert Jr., and meets his grandson Logan for the first time, noting how much he looks like Adrian.
- Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed: An underdog but talented heavyweight boxer, he is the son of world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. His real name is Donnie Johnson, but he fights as Donnie Creed.
- Sylvester Stallone as Robert "Rocky" Balboa: A two-time world heavyweight champion and Apollo's best friend and former rival who becomes Adonis's avuncular trainer and mentor. He owns and operates an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia named after his deceased wife, Adrian.
- Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago: Ivan's son who is a burly and ruthless boxer, and Adonis's new rival.
- Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago: Russia's former prize champion boxer, who, with the secret use of steroids and advanced training, gained worldwide attention due to his brute strength that had not been seen before. Years prior, he killed Apollo Creed during an exhibition boxing match, and was later defeated by Rocky. Having been disgraced in Russia, he relocated to Ukraine to raise his son Viktor, whom he also trained to box. Lundgren reprises his role from 1985's Rocky IV.
- Tessa Thompson as Bianca: Donnie's girlfriend, who becomes his fiancée and the mother of his child. She is also a singer-songwriter with progressive hearing loss.
- Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed: Apollo's widow and Adonis's stepmother, who takes in Adonis as a child following the death of Adonis' biological mother.
- Wood Harris as Tony "Little Duke" Evers: One of Wheeler's trainers. His father, Tony "Duke" Evers, was a father-figure for Apollo as well as his trainer when Apollo became world heavyweight champion. He then became one of Rocky's trainers after Apollo's death. He trains Adonis for his fight with Viktor and later assists Rocky in training Adonis for his rematch with Viktor.
- Russell Hornsby as Buddy Marcelle: A boxing promoter who sets up the match between Adonis and Viktor.
- Milo Ventimiglia as Rocky Balboa Jr.: Rocky's estranged son, who moved to Vancouver in the period between Rocky Balboa and Creed and is now a father himself. Ventimiglia reprises his role from the former film (2006).
- Andre Ward as Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler: A heavyweight boxer and Adonis's rival whom Adonis beats to become the heavyweight champion.
- Brigitte Nielsen as Ludmilla Vobet Drago: Ivan's ex-wife and Viktor's mother who left the pair during the latter's infancy. Nielsen also reprises her role from 1985's Rocky IV.
In addition, Robbie Johns appears briefly as Logan Balboa, Robert's son and Rocky's grandson. Archive footage of Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed is used throughout the film, with the actor's likeness also appearing through the use of photographs and murals.
Development and writing
On January 5, 2016, Sylvester Stallone and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures CEO Gary Barber confirmed to Variety that a sequel to Creed was in development. The same month, Stallone posed the possibility of seeing Milo Ventimiglia appear in the sequel, reprising his role as Rocky's son Robert Balboa from Rocky Balboa. Ventimiglia previously revealed during the development of Creed that he was open to returning to the franchise, stating, "I'll tell you what, if they invited me, I'd love to be there. If they didn't, I wouldn't be offended." It was revealed in April 2018 that Ventimiglia would have an appearance in the film. On January 11, 2016, Barber revealed that Ryan Coogler would not be returning due to scheduling conflicts, because he was attached to Black Panther, though he would return as executive producer. Michael B. Jordan's schedule ended up being delayed due to Black Panther, as he was starring in that film. In July 2017, Stallone confirmed that he had completed the script for the sequel, and also revealed that Ivan Drago would be featured in the film. In October 2017, it was announced that Stallone would direct and produce the film. However, in December 2017, it was reported that Steven Caple Jr. would instead direct the film with Tessa Thompson confirmed to reprise her role of Bianca, Creed's love interest. In January 2018, Romanian amateur boxer Florian Munteanu was cast in the film to play Drago's son with Dolph Lundgren set to reprise his role of Drago. In March 2018, Russell Hornsby joined the cast while Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, and Andre Ward were confirmed to reprise their roles from the prior film.
Vince DiCola, composer of Rocky IV, was originally rumored to return to score the film, but stated in a Facebook post: "I would have loved to return, however that's just how Hollywood works. We don't always get what we want."
Principal photography began March 2018. Filming occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the city's Port Richmond neighborhood, and was completed on June 7, 2018. Some scenes were filmed at the Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania.
On December 21, 2018, it was announced the film would receive a January 4, 2019 release in China, the first Rocky film to ever receive a theatrical release in the country.
Creed II grossed $115.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $98.4 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $214.1 million, against a production budget of $50 million.
In the United States and Canada, Creed II was released alongside Ralph Breaks the Internet and Robin Hood, as well as the wide expansion of Green Book, and was projected to gross $44–54 million from 3,350 theaters in its five-day opening weekend. The film made $11.6 million on its first day, including $3.7 million from Tuesday night previews (the second best pre-Thanksgiving total ever behind fellow release Ralph Breaks the Internet's $3.8 million and marking a 64% improvement over the first film's $1.4 million preview total). It went on to debut to $35.3 million in its opening weekend (a five-day total of $55.8 million), finishing second at the box office and marking the best Thanksgiving opening for a live-action film, besting Enchanted ($49.1 million) and Four Christmases ($46.1 million). In its second and third weekends the film made $16.8 million and $10 million, finishing in third both times. Over the five-day Christmas frame (its fifth week of release), the film passed the $109.7 million domestic total made by the first film.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 83% based on 309 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Creed II's adherence to franchise formula adds up to a sequel with few true surprises, but its time-tested generational themes still pack a solid punch." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on reviews from 45 critics, indicating " favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, the same score earned by its predecessor, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 87% positive score and an 89% "definite recommend".
Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com gave the film three out of four stars, stating that "Creed II falls victim to the sins of sequelitis—it's bigger, louder and more grandiose than its predecessor—yet manages to right itself by not losing focus on the humanity of its central characters." Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the film "rousing and effective" and wrote "Creed II has been made with heart and skill, and Jordan invests each moment with such fierce conviction that he makes it all seem like it matters. Even if it all mattered a notable notch more in Creed." Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a "B", praising Stallone's performance and saying: "Kramer Morgenthau's cinematography lacks the showy steadicam acrobatics of Creed, but the climactic battle between Adonis and Viktor still delivers a dazzling light show that dovetails right into the visceral mayhem of the battle, captured from so many angles some viewers may reel from the punches themselves."
When asked about plans for Creed III, Stallone stated that he would like Deontay Wilder to play the son of Clubber Lang, to which Jordan agreed if a sequel was made. In February 2020, Zach Baylin was announced as the sequel's writer. In October 2020, it was reported that, in addition to reprising his role of Adonis Creed, Michael B. Jordan would also direct Creed III, serving as his directorial debut. Jordan was confirmed as the director of Creed III in March 2021, with a targeted release date on November 23, 2022, while Stallone in April announced not to reprise his role as Rocky Balboa in Creed III.
As of July 2019, the Rocky franchise as a whole was announced to continue with another mentor-student film à la Creed, set post-Creed II in which Rocky Balboa would befriend a young fighter who is also an undocumented immigrant. Stallone stated: "Rocky meets a young, angry person who got stuck in this country when he comes to see his sister. He takes him into his life, and unbelievable adventures begin, and they wind up south of the border. It's very, very timely." In addition he announced the development of a Rocky prequel television series.
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