Photo via Abwnet

Rating: 4.5 stars

“Creed 2” is directed by Steven Caple Jr. and features the talents of Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, Tessa Thompson as Bianca Taylor, and the great Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. In this chapter of the Rocky/Creed boxing franchise, Adonis Creed must learn to provide for his new family while overcoming his demons, as well as those of his father.

The film picks up roughly three years after the events of 2015’s “Creed,” and shows that Adonis and Rocky have claimed the title of world heavyweight champion. However, trouble arises when Ivan Drago, the man responsible for the death of Creed’s father, and Victor Drago publicly challenge Creed for the title.

Jordan is brilliant in the title role and Sylvester Stallone once again owns his trademark role as Rocky Balboa. Creed and Rocky have a compelling dynamic throughout the film that builds upon what was set up in the first one but complicates the relationship and brings it to a new level.

The story doesn’t treat Ivan and Viktor Drago in a way that you would expect, especially if you’re a fan of, and know the Rocky lore. The film’s best attribute is its focus on the themes of family, personal struggle, loss and revenge. All of these aspects are given plenty of room to breathe, ultimately making for a well-balanced and entertaining film. Further, Caple Jr. does a great job taking the reins of the franchise from Ryan Coogler, who directed the first film. It’s clear that Caple Jr. made it a point to match the tone of “Creed,” which is not easy for a new director to do. The script is also well written and is chock-full of wonderful character moments that are both memorable and genuine.

I felt that the iconic score from the Rocky films and from the first “Creed” wasn’t used as much as it could in the sequel. I felt that the initial introduction of Viktor Drago was rushed. The film shows more of him as the story plays out, but the plot develops Ivan’s motivation more than Viktor’s, which could bother some viewers as he is the top contender facing Adonis. The Rocky movies are a staple of cinema and both “Creed” and “Creed 2” continue to solidify that.

I will note a disclaimer for the film: make sure you’re up to date on all of the previous films, particularly, the “Rocky” films and “Creed.” “Creed 2” draws much of its story from previous installments and it’s more enjoyable if you’re all caught up. All things considered, I enjoyed “Creed 2” as both a sequel to the first film and as a worthy addition to the Rocky franchise.