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REVIEW: ‘Creed II’ is about fatherhood, not boxing

November 30th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Creed II’ is about fatherhood, not boxing

Credit MGM

Adonis Creed is a boxer in his prime who just won the heavyweight championship. He also just got engaged.

Creed, though, isn’t happy. For 30 years he’s heard how his father—Apollo Creed—climbed to the top of the heavyweight mountain before being killed in the ring by a Russian boxer, Ivan Drago. That tragedy left Adonis fatherless and placed an emotional scar on him that’s he’s carried for life.

And now Ivan Drago’s son—the undefeated Viktor Drago—is No. 1 on the list of competitors for Creed’s championship belt.

Creed’s trainer, the legendary Rocky Balboa, doesn’t want him to fight Drago. Others share that sentiment, believing he will get killed while boxing, just like his father was.

But Adonis Creed is determined to avenge his father’s loss and to heal his emotional scars. The only question is: Will he live to tell about it?

The film Creed II (PG-13), now in theaters, continues the story that Rocky I, II, III and IV began and that the movie Creed picked up in 2015: of former champion Rocky Balboa—now older and wiser—training the son of his former friend, Apollo Creed. Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) wins the heavyweight title early in the movie but is then faced with a choice: defend his belt against a lesser opponent or fight Viktor Drago—the stone-faced boxer who is every bit as tough as his dad. It was Ivan Drago who famously told Balboa before a fight in Rocky IV: “I must break you.”

The good news for Rocky fans is that the veteran actors and actresses are back. Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, Dolph Lundgren returns as Ivan Drago, and Brigitte Nielsen—Ivan’s romantic interest and wife in Rocky IV—is back as Ludmilla Drago.

The best news, though, is that Creed II is more than a movie about boxing. It’s a film about fatherhood, with great messages every dad should hear.

Of course, Creed II includes quite a bit of violence and some language, too. Let’s examine the details.    

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate/extreme. The movie gives us an up-close and somewhat lengthy view of three boxing matches. For the squeamish, it can be difficult to watch. Punches land squarely on jaws. Blood flies out of mouths … in slow motion. Boxers fall to the ground and struggle to get up. One boxer goes to the hospital following a match and is told he has a ruptured kidney, cracked ribs and a concussion. Later, he urinates blood.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Moderate. Adonis proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), in a touching and sweet moment. They then begin kissing and hop onto the bed. The scene lasts but a few seconds—and very little is seen—but sex is implied. It ruins an otherwise positive moment in the film.  

Coarse Language

Minimal/Moderate. About 13 coarse words: s--t (11), h--l (1), b--ch (1).

Other Positive Elements

Rocky and Adonis are decades apart, but their friendship and bond is genuine. Rocky teaches Adonis the skill of boxing, and Adonis reciprocates it by taking care of an aging Rocky, who is a widower. It is implied that Adonis has given Rocky a major financial boost—almost like a wealthy NFL star buying his parents a new home.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Adonis and Bianca discover they are pregnant before they are married. At first they are terrified—Bianca wonders how it will impact her singing career—but Adonis does the right thing in pledging his love and support for Bianca and their baby.

Life Lessons

Creed II provides several lessons. Among them: Championships and success don’t bring joy. Happiness is found in the simpler things of life. Family is preeminent. We also learn it’s never too late to be reconciled to someone.

Worldview/Application

The best movies remind us what life should be like. They celebrate the beauty in life. They inspire us. Despite its violent backdrop, Creed II does that. It is among the most pro-fatherhood films I’ve seen, with three father-centric angles: Rocky and his estranged son, Adonis and his deceased father, and Ivan Drago and his son. (Ivan is living vicariously through him, pushing him beyond his limits.) Not surprisingly, we see resolution before the credits roll. Creed II is a feel-good movie that makes you want to be a better father (Ephesians 6:4) or grandfather—perhaps even to be a father figure for the fatherless. .

“I don’t want you making the same mistakes I made,” Rocky tells Adonis, referencing the son he hasn’t spoken to in years.

Then there is the subject of boxing, a sport that divides Christians. Many sports have an element of violence, but only boxing (and its MMA and UFC cousins) make violence the sole purpose. The goal, after all, is to knock out the opponent. There is no ball, no hoop, no helmet, no goal line. But you don’t have to be a boxing fan to enjoy the Rocky and Creed films. That’s because—at their core—they’re not about boxing. They’re about family and life. On those subjects, we can find agreement.

What Works

The father-centric story. The crowd and arena shots. It looks real.

What Doesn’t

Most proposals don’t end in the bedroom. It was a disappointing addition to the film.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does Creed II teach us about fatherhood?
  2. What led Rocky to want to reunite with his son? Why had they become estranged?
  3. Are fathers essential in the rearing of children? What unique qualities do they provide?
  4. Is boxing ethical?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality.