While Rocky IV has the distinction of being the third highest-grossing film of 1985 (right behind the original Back to the Future and Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood Part II), everyone pretty much considered it a relic of a bygone era. Yet in the same way that Stallone continues to astound us with the longevity of his greatest creation, Rocky Balboa (eight films and counting), there are few who thought that a film from 2018 — Michael B. Jordan’s Creed II — would ever tie so closely to one that was released over 30 years earlier.
Jordan reprises his role of Adonis Creed, whose father, Apollo (Carl Weathers), just happened to have been killed in the ring by Russia’s then heavyweight champ, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Needing to restore his best friend’s honor, Rocky heads over to Russia where, despite overwhelming odds (what else is new?), he defeats Drago and goes home. Two more sequels to come, but that particular story’s over. Or so we thought.
Explains Stallone, “I’m a big believer that life is cyclical. It goes around and keeps coming around and around. When I started imagining the storyline for Creed II, I thought, ‘It’s about the sins of the father,’ and that Adonis isn’t the only son carrying the weight of a legacy. So I considered some questions: what if Ivan Drago had a son? What type of legacy did he inherit?
“In Creed II,” he adds, “Rocky’s past has caught up to him, and also with Adonis, who is drawn into it because this is the man who killed his father. It was also the darkest moment in Rocky’s life when Apollo basically substituted for him in the exhibition match with Ivan, and he died. So now Adonis feels like he should take on Ivan’s son, Viktor [Florian Munteanu], to avenge his father. As for Ivan, after losing the fight to Rocky, he lost everything else in his life and has spent years instilling in his son nothing but hatred and revenge. Ivan has come back to prove to the world he isn’t a loser and is using Viktor to achieve that, while Rocky is afraid that history is going to repeat itself. I thought this would be an interesting theme, sort of Shakespearean in its characters and its arc. It was also a melding of two different generations of popular characters.”
Notes Michael B.Jordan, “Everything started to click when Sly came up with the Drago storyline. It was natural that Adonis would be a boxer like Apollo, and that Viktor would box the same as his father. In the boxing world, fighters’ sons often grow up in the gym watching their fathers, often following them into the sport. It was a genius idea. Out of nowhere, this blast from the past arrives which forces Adonis to go down a dark road, to really reflect on and figure out why he fights, and if he really has what it takes to be a great fighter. This film shows that sometimes you have to go through darkness and the fire to realize what’s important. You have to face your fears and go through pain.”
Creed II will be released on Nov. 21.