No matter what you think of Sylvester Stallone, you just can’t knock that he is Rocky Balboa. When he appears on the big screen you can’t help but take in his words of wisdom and fight hard for what you believe. That’s exactly what happens in the eighth film of the Rocky franchise, Creed II. I’m not a fan of boxing by any means, but I know Rocky and his creed to be the best of who you are resonates deep for any athlete and any human being.
The second Creed film sees the passing on of the baton to the next generation, giving a sweeping view of family history and ancestry. Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), a light heavyweight boxer follows in the footsteps of his father Apollo Creed, heavyweight champion who was killed during a Las Vegas exhibition fight with Russian boxer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) 33 years earlier. Drago later loses to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and seeks to regain his position in the boxing world. Ivan Drago’s powerful son, Vicktor (Florian Munteanu) challenges Adonis to a fight.
Adonis has a new baby with his longtime girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a singer/songwriter who is losing her hearing. He wants to be present to his family and take care of his wife and daughter. Despite his attempts, he cannot stay away from the ring. It is in his blood…almost as if it is in his very DNA. He seeks out Rocky to help him train.
Family themes are key to this film. Rocky, though estranged from his son (Milo Ventimiglia) encourages Adonis to focus on his family and not put himself in harms way. Adonis wants to live up to his father’s expectations and avenge his father’s death. At this point the “Rocky-isms” flow forth: “Don’t take cheap shots. We live in the past. You’ve got people who need you now. You’ve got everything to lose.” After seeing Apollo die in his arms, he wants to protect Adonis from the very big and powerful Vicktor Drago. Yet, it is loyalty that fires Adonis’ soul. He has put the expectations on himself to redeem the family heritage and be the best.
Now, back to boxing. I really dislike watching people bang each other up. It’s a senseless sport to me. Yet, I’m a woman and do not like seeing anyone lose in a fight. My father used to watch some boxing and I know many guys who like it. It must be a guy thing. Anyway, as a sport, there is the excitement of competitiveness and the need as for any athlete to reach down deep in oneself to conquer all adversity. It is not just about external physical strength but the internal mental state that overcomes the impossible. This is why David could fight Goliath and win. It is the mind and heart together that gives the human spirit the adrenaline to rise above hardship and distress against all odds. That’s what makes for a great story even if it is predictable.
When Adonis goes to visit his stepmother Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) who took care of him when his mother died when he was young, she already knew that he would accept the fight challenge. But she makes it clear to him not to do it as a way to avenge his father. The past is the past. She tells him he as to be aware of his family and be sure he is doing this for the right reasons, not vengeance. Adonis fights Vicktor Drago in a bloody and brutal battle of wits and agility.
Even though the entire film was predictable at almost every scene, Sylvester Stallone makes the audience want to stand up and cheer as he focuses Adonis during the fight. But more than brute strength and mental clarity, what gives one the impetus to stand up against adversity are those whose love matters most. Those closest to you are your greatest cheering squad and give you the reason to keep on fighting even when the odds are against you. Those we love, our family and our friends, are what make life worth living. As Adonis learned, family above all material goods and reputation is what provides the purpose and meaning in life, and ultimately the greatest joy.