I was pursuing my Masters when I watched the Rocky series for the first time, amidst a week-long frenzy of exams and all-nighters. It had inadvertently become a ritual when a bunch of us would keep aside our books and notes at 12 am, and boot up the laptop. Bill Conti’s iconic theme for Rocky Gonna Fly Now became our unofficial anthem; so much so, that every time we heard that tune, we would feel a surge of adrenaline, jumping right into our preparation for next day’s test.
Although every single Rocky film had Stallone’s beating heart stitched right into the narrative, Rocky IV always stood out as the most cathartic one. Where the other films followed the good-old “hero’s journey” narrative, Rocky IV found Balboa a broken down man riddled with the guilt that he had let his dear friend Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers) die at the hands of Ivan Drago. This particular turn in the series was also significant given the history that Rocky and Apollo shared – their long-standing rivalry, Apollo’s constant smears, and their eventual friendship. That made Rocky’s victory over Drago in his own turf all the more sweet. It was vengeance disguised as a boxing match, and Rocky delivered it unto us.
Quick Trivia about Dolph Lundgren:
Dolph Lundgren – IQ 160. That’s right, Ivan Drago is a genius. Dolph has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He also received a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney and the next year was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT.
Source – thechive.com
Ryan Coogler’s 2015 re-hash of the Rocky series was an interesting way to hand-it down to the new generation. More than nostalgia, Creed was more of a coming-of-age story for Apollo Jr. aka Adonis Creed who comes to terms with his roots and takes on the gloves as a way to honour his father’s memory. When I reviewed the film three years back, it became somewhat of an unpopular opinion for that fact that, the audience really liked the film while I was not too impressed with the way Adonis had been written. To me, he seemed to lack the sincerity that was so characteristic of Rocky. But then, maybe I had put Rocky on a pedestal that was so high that my perspective of Creed had fallen short. It was not a bad film in any regard, for sure. In fact, Coogler mindfully brought a lot of Apollo into Adonis – the devil-may-care attitude, the ferocity, and an overall personality of showmanship. Creed has found its place in the Rocky story.
Directed by Steven Caple Jr., Creed II opens into a world where Adonis Creed is a World Heavyweight Champion and has become a poster-boy for the media. Soon after, he proposes to Bianca “Bee”. While visiting his mother Mary Anne Creed, they discover that Bee is pregnant. It’s a happy time and Creed couldn’t have asked for more. In a parallel storyline, Ivan Drago’s son Viktor is training hard to be a fierce Boxer in Ukraine. Following his resounding defeat in 1985, Drago lost everything, including his wife. After watching Viktor decimate his opponent at a local boxing match, Boxing Promoter Buddy Marcelle asks the Dragos to come to America and challenge Creed into the ring. Needless to say, they didn’t need much persuading. When Creed hears about the open challenge, he is torn between his need to assuage his father’s memory by defeating his “killer’s” son, and the fact that life has changed for him. He is going to be a father, and he cannot let his child grow up without a father in case something untoward happened. A frail Rocky also tries to convince him to ignore Drago Jr.’s call, but Creed decides to take up on the challenge. As it turns out, Creed highly underestimates his opponent and faces a near-fatal beating in the ring with a mere disqualification keeping him from clear defeat. The Dragos return to their home country to national jubilation. Meanwhile, Creed daughter is born as he recuperates from his injuries. The taste of vengeance has only grown stronger now, as this has become more about getting his own confidence back as a Boxer and a World Champion. Creed decides to go to Moscow where the Viktor Drago awaits him for a rematch that would seal their fate.
Caple Jr. ties in the sequel to its predecessor and the overall franchise nicely. The scene where Ivan Drago meets Rocky at Adrian’s feels like a walk down nostalgia lane, as the two great rivals look down upon the other. While Drago is still filled with bitterness and contempt even after 33 years, Rocky is past forgiveness. What was done, was done. Dolph Lundgren’s portrayal of Drago is a lot more nuanced this time, and would even make you feel sympathetic towards him. We had never heard his side of the story before, and as it turns out, he had lived the life of a social outcast. Every time Lundgren is on screen, you feel the past looming over the narrative which adds a nice layer to the story. Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Adonis has also been written with a lot of subtle shades that juxtapose together into this complex individual who is trying to balance a lot of conflicting things in his life.
As he starts hitting it slowly, then aggressively, tears start flowing and he sobs like a child. It was a poignant moment to watch Adonis open up in front of his daughter like he couldn’t with anyone else.
In what is one of my favourite scenes, Bee leaves their daughter Amora with Creed. The baby starts crying, and nothing he did would calm her down. In the next scene, we watch him standing in the Delphi Boxing Academy with Amora in a baby-carrier. This is the time when he is recuperating and hasn’t been to training for months. He keeps Amora on the side of the ring and stands in front of a punching bag. As he starts hitting it slowly, then aggressively, tears start flowing and he sobs like a child. It was a poignant moment to watch Adonis open up in front of his daughter like he couldn’t with anyone else.
Creed II isn’t just all heart. As expected from a film about Boxing, every single fight is choreographed well enough to set your pulse racing. The razzmatazz of a commercial boxing match is captured in detail and is reminiscent of the Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao match at MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada 2015. Caple Jr. has brought together a Boxing film that checks all the right boxes, with the right dosage of nostalgia. With this film, this young new director is one to watch out for.