Although Creed was perfectly enjoyable to watch on its own, ultimately it served as another piece of the wider Rocky mythology. After all, Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed is the son of the late Apollo Creed, who died in the ring boxing Russian powerhouse Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Creed spent less time delving into Adonis' family ties and more into him training with Rocky Balboa to get his professional boxing career off the ground. So if Creed echoed the original Rocky, then Creed 2 unquestionably echoes Rocky IV, as the sequel sees Adonis going mano a mano with Viktor Drago, Ivan's son. And just like Adonis has Rocky in his corner for support, Viktor has daddy Drago, being reprised by Dolph Lundgren. The older Ivan was finally shown in the new Creed 2 trailer today, and the preview made it clear that more than 30 years after we last saw him, his intensity hasn't diminished.
Often considered one of the greatest villains in the Rocky franchise, Ivan Drago was introduced in 1985's Rocky IV as the Soviet Union's best boxer, his strength unparalleled thanks to a combination of training and injection of an unnamed substance (assumed to be steroids). Unlike the boastful Clubber Lang from Rocky III, Ivan was a man of few words and only had one goal: to be the best fighter in the world. He proved just how powerful he was when he killed Apollo Creed, who didn't take Ivan seriously enough, with multiple blows to the head. As if killing an opponent in the ring wasn't bad enough, Ivan also didn't express any remorse for Apollo's death, having earlier uttered the famous line, "If he dies, he dies." Not taking the death of his friend sitting down, Rocky challenged Ivan to their own fight, and after going through an intense '80s training montage, our esteemed protagonist came out victorious after 15 rounds. The later Rocky movies never addressed what happened to Ivan afterwards, but the damage Rocky sustained during that fight led to brain damage, which played into his struggles during Rocky V.
This brings us to Creed 2, where Ivan Drago is back after more than 30 years and has trained his son Viktor for his own boxing career. Dolph Lundgren has previously said that he was initially hesitant to reprise Ivan after all this time because he didn't want to hurt the "image" of this iconic character, but after reading the Creed 2 script and seeing that this movie was a chance to show Ivan's "damaged, struggling side," he signed on. This suggests that Creed 2 will explore Ivan's vulnerabilities; whether they're physical (maybe injecting that junk took a toll on his body) or psychological.
However, that doesn't mean that Ivan will be any less of an antagonistic figure. As Rocky notes in the new Creed 2 trailer, Viktor Drago was "raised in hate," implying that Ivan did whatever it took to ensure his son would also be a great fighter, no matter what the cost. And clearly Rocky's fight with Ivan still heavily looms in his mind, as he tells Adonis that Ivan broke things in him "that ain't ever been fixed" and he doesn't want Adonis to suffer a similar fate going up against Viktor.
Just like how Rocky didn't step back into the ring for Creed, we shouldn't expect Ivan Drago to either for Creed 2, although that doesn't necessarily preclude him from getting into a tussle with someone outside of a boxing setting. That said, since the news anchor in the Creed 2 trailer says that it's Viktor Drago who challenges Adonis rather than the other way around, I wouldn't be surprised if this was done on Ivan's urging. He can no longer fight professionally, but having seen Adonis rise up in the boxing world, he sees this as an opportunity for his son to knock the main protagonist off his perch and bring some glory back to the Drago name. And just like what happened with Apollo, if Viktor happens to kill Adonis in the ring, so be it.
We'll find out what's in store for Ivan Drago when Creed 2 punches its way into theaters on November 21. If you're interested in learning what else is screening for the rest of the year, look through our 2018 release schedule.
Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.
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