It is rare to find a sequel that is satisfying. It can be said that it proves that money, or commercial availability, is not always an incentive that gets the best possible outcome.

Or, as I have long suspected, it is not that money fails to incentivise filmmakers to produce great stories but that studios are rarely willing to allow too much rebranding of characters and storylines in a sequel. The whole idea of an installment, from a commercial point of view, is to capitalise on the success of the first film, which may be hard to do if filmmakers insist on being too creative as they were in the first outing.

Sequels take a lot more money to make than the original movies, so few studio executives encourage risk taking. That is perhaps why Creed II is not a good movie, like all the sequels to the original 1976 Rocky.

The 2015 Creed was different. It cannot be denied that it was well executed, on top of having a rather inventive plot concept. Having Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) train the son of his former rival, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), did not come off as a crude commercial opportunity to squeeze every dollar a studio can make from a famous movie character.

The film was infused with the paternalistic relationship between the talented young boxer living in his father’s shadow, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), and a lonely, once-upon-a-time great champion, Rocky, who together find a purpose to win. This almost made the movie’s similarity to the original Rocky - they have the exact same ending - forgivable.

Creed II fails to find anything unique about itself though. Like all the sequels, prequels and remakes Hollywood regurgitates, it is full of itself. And given talks of another installment, it would also probably be the second best film in what would become the Creed trilogy. It is usually downhill from a bad second outing.

The sequel starts with Adonis becoming a heavyweight champion of the world. He does not get to celebrate for too long though. He gets a challenge for a fight from an old foe of Rocky and his father’s, Viktor (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).

Ivan, back in the day, was the Russian boxer who literally beat Apollo to death in a ring, leaving Adonis without a father. Drago was later defeated by Rocky in a match in the Soviet Union, losing status in his home country. But it turns out that this encouraged him to train his son, Viktor, to become a mountainous boxing machine that strikes with devastating blows.

Adonis, emotionally as well as egotistically, accepts the challenge to fight Viktor against the advice of his trainer, Rocky.

From beginning to end, Creed II is predictable. There is never any doubt that Adonis will come out victorious and prove himself the greatest fighter on Earth with little to no inconvenience to his personal life. Like the subsequent Rocky films after 1976, it is not the story of an underdog but that of the mainstream favourite.

This is all the more unfortunate given the potential of the Viktor-Ivan side story. It is the touching depiction of a father and son who placed all their eggs in one basket to regain the glory of their surname - Drago - but whose devotion to each other transcends the concept of winning.

It might have been impossible to make this movie wholly about Viktor and Ivan – that is not at all commercial. But it would have been feasible to give the two characters room to grow.

Like Rocky in the original movie, and Adonis in the 2015 Creed, Viktor is the underdog in Creed II. And like Rocky and Creed before him, he might have lost, but he deserved respect. He was, in the end, a social reject - the son of a boxer that killed a man only to be defeated and ostracised later - that almost knocked the pampered, famous and rich Adonis off his golden seat.

He was owed the chance to prove himself, but Creed II denies him the opportunity. Worse, the movie denies the audience a chance to revel at a daring and sophisticated movie, just to take the safest path and fulfill the dreams of Adonis.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 24,2018 [ VOL 19 , NO 969]


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