I love to go to the movies. However, with all the alternative paths that those movies can take on their way to my eyes, when I do go out to the movies, I would like very much for the experience to be worth my while.
When I end up feeling as though the meetings that took place in order to get the movie made in the first place, then I start to feel regret for driving out to find a parking space and buying that ticket and one for my wife and maybe some popcorn and a big old Sprite and sitting there in the dark wondering, "I bet the meetings that took place in order to get this movie made in the first place was more interesting than this movie itself." Which is probably not the optimum response to any movie-going experience. It was, however, the way I felt after I went out to see Creed II.
I really enjoyed Creed. The story of Apollo Creed's illegitimate son finding his way in the gritty world of professional boxing was a good ride. It was a way to bring new life to the Rocky saga, a saga that had managed to go the distance over the course of six films, into the twenty-first century. It was Ryan Coogler, writer/director of Fruitvale Station, who helped make this leap. And that was fine. This was a story that deserved some screen time.
And it made a lot of money. So of course there was a discussion to be had about how money could continue to be made, along the lines of the thirty years of Rocky movies turned out by Sylvester Stallone and company. Who benefits from this exchange? Sylvester Stallone. He wrote and produced Creed II. His supporting role as the trainer got a little heftier in this sequel to a reboot. He was also able to wrangle stars Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson, fresh off their successes in Marvel super hero franchises to reprise their roles as the boxer and his lady. Mix in a little Dolph Lundgren as the Russian beast who has fallen on hard times since his defeat at the hands of the Italian Stallion, and a cameo by Brigette Nielsen as the Russian ice queen and you have a retro-sundae of a return to what used to be.
Without any of the soul that once made Rocky and Creed great stories in the first place. Underdog stories became a cliche because of the success of Rocky Balboa. Delivering that to a new generation deserves some praise, but banking on it by using the same formula without even bothering to write new characters. Boxer loses first fight, has to find his way back and wins the second. The other stuff is essentially window dressing. And yes, I paid to see it. There was some comfort to be gained in all that familiarity, but do I wish I would have waited for it to show up on some streaming service?