The Creed movies are always going to be connected to the Rocky movies, there's no way around that. But compared to 2015's Creed, Creed II, which hit theaters last week, definitely had closer ties with the Rocky side of the franchise, particularly Rocky IV. But for those who feel the sequel was just trying to mimic those Rocky elements, director Steven Caple Jr. counters that he made an effort to harness the same energy that the first Creed movie emitted. Recalling a conversation he had with star Michael B. Jordan and producer Ryan Coogler, Caple said:
I remember talking to Mike and Ryan about it. I was like, 'There are moments I want to bring back inCreed as well, man, so that way people can feel that.' Not just Rocky nostalgia, but start to create Creed themes.
The first five Rocky movies ran from 1976 to 1990, and then Rocky Balboa jumped back in the ring one last time in 2006. With reboots and remakes being more popular than ever nowadays, it would have been easy enough to press the restart button and simply find a new actor to play Rocky in a brand new continuity. Instead, Ryan Coogler and Sylvester Stallone teamed up to highlight a new protagonist in the same in Creed, and following that movie's success, Steven Caple Jr. succeeded Coogler as director for Creed II.
But in order for the Creed film series to stand out as special compared to its predecessors, it's not enough to just channel the same kind of vibes the Rocky movies had. The Creed movies need to have their own special vibes too, and it sounds like Steven Caple Jr. realized it was important for Creed II to build on the themes what Creed brought in. So while there are definitely similarities between Creed II and Rocky IV, Caple made an effort to ensure that the sequel was starting to establish its own legacy, which even more appropriate given the movie's subject matter.
During his interview with EW, Steve Caple Jr. also noted that while Creed II is intended to appeal to all kinds of moviegoers, it also has moments that are specifically meant to connect with black audiences. The director stated:
Culturally specific. That's something I liked in Creed, and then when we tapped into Creed II, [we thought] how can we go about these scenes and moments in our lives and make it so relatable and so appealing to anyone? We are black, so we are able to find those moments where we're able to embed the culture and who we are with improvising, with how we play out jokes, letting scenes naturally come about. That was cool.
Steven Caple Jr. then added that taking this approach with Creed II was a "huge thing" for everyone both in front of and behind the camera, Michael B. Jordan in particular. To them, it was "like changing the narrative on screen," and collectively seeing them as "different people" and a family.
As those who saw Rocky IV remember, Apollo Creed was killed in the ring by Russian powerhouse Ivan Drago in what was supposed to just be a simple exhibition match. Creed obviously touched on Adonis' late father, but Creed II not only explored Apollo's legacy more deeply, but also the impact of Rocky Balboa later defeating Ivan in Russia.
Even if you haven't seen Creed II yet, the movie's trailers and marketing have done a good job laying out how the sequel is following up on the events of Rocky IV, with Ivan Drago telling Rocky that after he lost more than 30 years ago, his life went to hell, which including his wife, Ludmilla, leaving him. But now, with his own son, Viktor Drago, becoming a top contender in the world of boxing, he sees Viktor beating Adonis in the ring as his chance to regain glory.
From Adonis' perspective, upon hearing he's been challenged, he sees a fight with Viktor Drago as a chance to gain vengeance for his father's death. Again, I won't spoil how that fight goes down, but suffice it to say that there are portions of the movie that resemble Rocky IV and the earlier movies, albeit in a more grounded way.
Along with its ties with the Rocky movies, Creed II also does a good job of building on Adonis' relationship with Tessa Thompson's Bianca, namely with them having a kid together. And just like in Creed, Creed II makes it clear that Adonis is a different kind of fighter than Rocky Balboa. Rocky has been most helpful as a coach, mentor and surrogate father figure, but Adonis is charting his own path in life, and should the Creed series continue, ideally that means that future movies will less resemble the Rocky movies and feel even more like unique offerings.
Critically speaking, Creed II has been earning positive reviews overall, even if the reception isn't quite to the level that Creed earned. Commercially speaking, Creed II has already proven itself to be a heavy-hitter, making $35.293 million during its first Friday to Sunday period, making it not just the highest-opening of the Rocky franchise movies, but also the biggest debut for a sports drama.
We'll have to wait and see if Creed III gets the green light from Warner Bros and MGM, though given Creed II's performance, I imagine it's way more likely than not that these companies will want to keep Adonis Creed's story moving. Assuming the threequel does move forward, given that Ryan Coogler will be busy with Black Panther 2, that means either Steve Caple Jr. will return to the director's chair or, if he's too busy, another director will be brought in to take the reins.