In 2015, Creed was a surprise. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, coming off Fruitvale Station, reinvigorated the Rocky franchise by making it about not only a new generation, but a new culture, passing the title and the franchise not to Rocky’s son but to Apollo Creed’s. Creed was so good Warner Brothers—who had no f*cking clue what they had—was caught completely off guard by the enthusiastic audience and critical response, and never managed to get a solid award campaign off the ground, but they did immediately greenlight a sequel. The only catch is that, so far, Ryan Coolger has expressed no interest in sequels (we’ll see if Marvel can change his mind). So the question was then, what does Creed look like without Ryan Coogler? Based on the first trailer that’s just been released, the answer is: still very good.
Creed II directing duties fall to Steven Caple, Jr., who, like Coogler, is a young guy making the leap from shorts and indies, and I like that they’re sticking with young, fresh voices for this franchise. For a minute, Sylvester Stallone was going to direct Creed II—he did co-write the script with Luke Cage’s Cheo Hodari Choker—but someone must have realized that is a step back, not forward, and Creed is all about moving forward. (Stallone says he chose not to direct, but I don’t quite believe that he made that decision entirely unassisted.) But it’s a tradition now, to give the Creed chair to an emerging black filmmaker.
But it’s also a Rocky tradition that the protagonist of a Rocky movie gets his ass kicked at some point, and Creed II is still a Rocky movie. The trailer outlines the plot for us—Adonis is still boxing, but he loses a fight, and from the looks of it, he loses pretty badly. So he’s going to have to pick himself up, do at least two training montages, and get back in the ring. And it looks like his comeback fight will be against another legacy character, the son of Ivan Drago. So Creed II is, kind of, a remake of Rocky IV. I’m into it.
I’m also into the return of Tessa Thompson. One of the best parts of Creed is the relationship between Donnie and Bianca, and now they have a kid. So Donnie isn’t just fighting for himself, he’s FIGHTING FOR HIS FAMILY. This is classic boxing movie stuff, but if it isn’t handled just right, you end up with, well, Rocky IV. I know Lainey LOVES Rocky IV, but let’s not pretend that movie isn’t supremely silly. I’m not getting “silly” from the Creed II trailer, I’m just saying the potential is there.
Overall, though, I like this first look. I like that it feels just as fresh and energetic as Creed. And I LOVE the timing, that Creed II comes out on Thanksgiving. This will be the movie I see with my dad. This will be the grown-up option for movie-going families on a long holiday weekend, which worked out well for Creed three years ago. And this time, Warner Brothers knows what they have, so they can launch a real award campaign for MBJ. Speaking of, the poster for Creed II was released yesterday, and to quote Kathleen, “I’m pregnant.” I will not refer to him as “Michael Bae Jordan” because he is Kathleen’s future husband and I like our friendship. But he looks very good on that poster.