Michael B. Jordan attends "Creed II" premiere in New York City on November 14, 2018.

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Why You’ve Gotta See Creed II This Weekend

The Rocky Spinoff Sequel Hits Hard

November 23, 2018

Expected to generate more than $60 million over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, "Creed II," the Rocky spinoff sequel starring Michael B. Jordan, hit theaters on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it’s getting not only big box office receipts but also rave reviews. Here are a few observations and takeaways after watching the film.


Phylicia Rashad is everybody’s mama
Even though she wasn’t the original wife who we remember from "Rocky IV," when Apollo Creed was killed while fighting Russian boxer Ivan Drago, it feels absolutely right that Phylicia Rashad is the maternal figure in Adonis Creed’s life. There’s something about Rashad that calms the whole theater when she appears, whether offering advice to Adonis in private conversations, or standing next to Tessa Thompson’s character Bianca as Adonis fights. She still has that confident, all-knowing smirk -- always with at least one slightly raised eyebrow -- that America has loved since "The Cosby Show," and her presence reminds us that there continues to be a positive legacy from the hugely influential black family sitcom. So yeah, even if it’s not really hers, she deserves that big house and we like seeing her living so comfortably. We just want to come over for dinner.


Michael B. Jordan is swole
Remember how Ivan Drago was taking injections of what was probably steroids in "Rocky IV"? Well, it wouldn’t be hard to convince folks that Jordan was juicing too, if not for the ridiculous size advantage of Viktor Drago creating such a contrast in their bodies when standing eye-to-eye in the ring (for real -- actor Florian Munteanu, who plays Viktor, looks way more like an MMA fighter than a boxer, and it’s never in doubt that Adonis is going to catch a few bad ones. Still, it’s pretty crazy how chopped Jordan is in "Creed II," even over the original "Creed." Especially if you remember him as Wallace from "The Wire," where his much younger, much skinnier frame made him look much more wire-y and much less likely to swing on anybody. Fast-forward to that scene where he’s training with "Rocky," and running in front of the car, and it doesn’t even look physically possible to be that fast and beefy at the same damn time.


There are two surprise character appearances
Without giving anything away, two people show up in the movie that are directly connected to Sylvester Stallone’s real life, and how it has sometimes been interwoven with the "Rocky" movie franchise over the years. In both cases, it shows Stallone to be a true creative, willing to give very personal parts of himself to the audience in order to advance the story. And in both cases, audiences have reportedly reacted positively, perhaps because the films have done a great job of giving these influential characters their own story arcs, no matter how short or ongoing their roles have been in the actual movies. It’s another example of how Hollywood characters can be immortal, even if that’s not the reality of human life.


The fatherhood dynamic reaches across Russian-U.S. relations
Screenwriters sometimes struggle with humanizing movie villains. But in the case of "Creed II," and unlike in "Rocky IV" when we first met the Drago family, there’s an empathy felt between the audience and the “bad guys,” based on a fatherhood dynamic that was carefully constructed by the writers, producers and director. By the way, those writers included Stallone and former music journalist Cheo Hodari Coker of MARVEL’s "Luke Cage" Netflix series, but not original "Creed" director Ryan Coogler, who turned over directorial duties to Steven Caple Jr., another African-American director with whom Coogler attended film school. But it was Coogler’s lingering legacy, using his relationship with his own father who struggled with health issues during the filming of the first "Creed" movie, that appeared again in the relationships Adonis had with his deceased dad Apollo Creed and with Rocky, as “Unc.” Surprisingly, the fatherhood dynamic between Ivan and Viktor Drago even creates a complicated understanding for folks watching in the theater, and even though we know we’re rooting for Jordan’s Adonis character and the entire Creed family, it’s hard not to feel like Viktor is also a victim of his own need for acceptance and love from not just his father Ivan, but Mother Russia (who shows up metaphorically in more ways than one). And this story of a son needing his father’s approval plays a big part in the surprise ending.


You’ll need tissue, or very big eyelids
There’s something about the "Rocky" franchise of films that has always brought out emotional responses from fans. "Creed II" continues this tradition, and you’re very likely to hear audible gasps, cheers and moments of dead silence during certain parts of the movie. Best to be prepared with something soft to wipe that moisture away.

Ultimately, "Creed II" succeeds by bringing out this emotion and bringing together generations of fans across culture, and creeds, through a story of perseverance through pain, and the willingness to fight for love. Whether it’s better or worse than the original is a decision you can make for yourself, but it’s another great story with a hard-hitting performance by its main character Michael B. Jordan, and supporting cast of Hollywood heavyweights.