Great storytelling makes ‘Creed II’ a knockout

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures shows Michael B. Jordan in a scene from "Creed II." (Frank Ockenfels/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

The bell has rung. The decision is in. “Creed II” is a knockout.

The highly anticipated sequel continues the great storytelling and execution of the first, with some new moves thrown in. While it remains slightly formulaic to the Rocky films, the punches still hit just as hard.

The son of Apollo Creed, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), has become one of the best boxers in the world with the help of his mentor, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). It appears that their past will come back to haunt them when a new fighter emerges, Victor Drago (Florian Munteanu). More than 30 years earlier, Drago’s father killed Apollo in the ring. With the chance to avenge his father’s death, this fight proves to be Adonis’ biggest and most dangerous competition yet.

The stakes were extremely high with a plot as ambitious as the rematch of Creed vs. Drago; the movie delivered on every level. Just the like the film’s predecessor, the balance between the fights and the personal life of Adonis is done so well. This time there is an emphasis on Adonis and not his career. This refreshing focus provides for a deeper movie with more touching moments. Several scenes were almost enough to evoke some tears. A lengthy stretch of the film in the middle spent a little too much time without any boxing in it, slowing down the pace heavily. It did make me appreciate the fights even more though.

The poignant moments wouldn’t be possible without the stellar acting. Jordan was fantastic once again. He fully committed to this role emotionally and physically. In and out of the ring, Jordan put every ounce of emotion into whatever he was doing. Tessa Thompson and Stallone were just as strong as they were in the first film. With Jordan at the forefront showcasing his talent in the heat of battle, and his supporters on the outside of the ropes, it’s hard to go wrong.

With an incredible execution, the boxing matches were riveting. Each swing was just as exciting as the next. The filming, editing and choreography made for fights filled with tension. While there was not the impressive one-take fight scene that the previous film can boast, I am glad that the movie didn’t rely on what was already established by the first. It brought new things to the table, like an antagonist that audiences can sympathize with. The large amount of time spent on Victor made me feel for him, even making me root for him sometimes. It seems as if the films that Jordan are in always have a great antagonist. First, he was the memorable villain in “Black Panther,” and now he is the boxing hero. He may just be a good luck charm. That, or thoughtful character writing.

There are seldom sequels that are just as good as the first. “Creed II” is one of these few that I can say this for. I am just crossing my fingers that it doesn’t follow the Rocky trend and take a dive in the next installment. That would be very, very bad. No one needs a repeat of that.