Creed II opens with two boxers on the rise: Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Both young men have complicated relationships with their fathers, each of whom made a name for themselves in the ring. In Rocky IV, Apollo (Carl Weathers) and Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) battled in an exhibition fight, which led to Apollo's death, so after Adonis becomes the WBC Heavyweight Champion and Viktor has won a number of matches, a savvy promoter wants the sons to fight.
Ivan relishes the idea, seeking a return to glory through his son because after his loss to Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), Ivan's life fell apart. He was cast aside by the Soviet leaders and his wife left him. Rocky is against the fight in part because of the guilt he carries. He could have thrown in the towel and ended the fight but Apollo told him not to do it under any circumstance. Rather than listening to Rocky, Adonis feels betrayed, by another father figure, and fights without Rocky in his corner.
The fight goes as expected for the most part. Due to his pride, Adonis suffers a brutal beating that injures him both physically and mentally. However, because of his Ivan's constant pressure, which started at birth considering his name, Viktor is so aggressive he gets disqualified yet is hailed a champ at home. When he is expected to fight again or lose his title, Adonis realizes it must be a rematch. With Rocky at his side, he strives to rebuild himself in order to take the challenge.
Director Steven Caple Jr. does a very good job making the fight scenes dramatic and exciting through the combination of the actors, the cinematography, the editing and the score. Setting the boxing aside, Creed II continues to explore father-and-son relationships. Not just between Adonis and Apollo, which began in the previous film, but also between Adonis and his surrogate Rocky. It's something he better understands once Bianca (Tessa Thompson) gives birth to their child. In addition, different perspectives of this dynamic are seen with the Drago's and the Balboa's as well. Each one touching in its own way.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. There are vibrant colors although the teal and orange can be overdone at times. I didn't mind when the teal was used to help drain the color out of Ukraine, but when the orange of the orange juice Rocky drinks popped off the screen, it seemed a little much. Blacks are inky and whites are bright, the latter is shown well in Adonis's mother Mary Anne's (Phylicia Rashad) bathroom. There are fine texture details throughout. The only negative with the video was that watching on a smaller screen, the effects of the distant auditorium crowd was noticeable.
For the audio, a Dolby Atmos track is available, but I am only capable of handling the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Dialogue is clear throughout. To augment the impact, punches would some times rattle the subwoofer, as did the music at Bianca's concert. Otherwise, the music and score had great fidelity and could be heard in the surrounds as could the ambiance, particularly audiences around the ring. The track has a wide dynamic range, from the loudness of a fight to the softness of a quiet chat between Adonis and Bianca.
The extras, all in HD, are:
- Fathers & Sons (7 min) - A look at how family shaped the characters and story, and how family influences boxing.
- Casting Viktor Drago (6 min) - How boxer Florian Munteanu got the job and how well he handled it.
- The Women of Creed II (6 min) - How Bianca and Mary Anne factor into the story
- The Rocky Legacy (15 min) - A brief overview of the series with even briefer connections between Creed II and the earlier films. Stallone and Lundgren sit and talk about their Rocky IV movie fight.
- Deleted Scenes (10 min) - They include Rocky at a friend's funeral, Adonis and Bianca at Max's restaurant, Rocky training kids, and Adonis visiting Viktor in the locker room after the second fight. The latter one I wished had been developed more and used to show the respect the fighters had for each other.
Creed II (aka Rocky VIII aka Rocky IV Part II) is a worthy addition to the Rocky franchise. Although it contains familiar plot points from other films in the series, the filmmakers do a good job of blending engaging characters with thrilling fight sequences.