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Non-Review Review: Creed II

Creed II is a much better sequel than Rocky IV deserves.

At the heart of Creed II is the grudge match that fans of the franchise had been anticipating since the core concept of this “legacy-quel” series was first suggested. Adonis Creed in the ring against Viktor Drago. The son of Apollo Creed squaring off against the son of Ivan Drago, a generational rematch of the bout that cost Apollo Creed his life in Rocky IV. Adonis Creed is haunted by the name that he inherited from a father that he never met, and so it seems only reasonable that his film series would circle back around to allowing him closure on this.

A Rocky Road Less Travelled.

There is an irony in all of this. One of the central themes of Creed was the challenge of this spin-off movie franchise existing in the shadow of the original beloved Rocky series. Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler rose to that challenge, and created one of the great franchise success stories of the twenty-first century. As a result, it occasionally feels like Creed II is not so much fighting to escape the shadow of Rocky IV as much as it is wrestling with the weight of Creed.

Creed II is a solid and sturdy sequel to Creed, although not a superior one. It isn’t necessarily the sequel that Creed deserves.

To the Viktor, the spoils…

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Non-Review Review: Creed

Creed feels like something of an unlikely companion piece to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Increasingly, it seems that nostalgia is becoming a dominant force in popular culture. There has always been a market for nostalgia, but the past few years have seen an explosion in the management and exploitation of recognisable properties. It seems like almost everything is being fashioned into a franchise. In the seventies or eighties, it would have been unthinkable to imagine a shared universe built around Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. Now, the surprise is not so much that the shared universe exists, but that it is good. Creed is a great boxing film.

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If nostalgia is to become a governing force going forward, it is worth reflecting on approaches that work and those that do not. For every franchise that works, there is another that flounders. For every Mad Max: Fury Road, there is a Terminator: Genisys waiting in the wings. The key is to understand this pull of the past and to engage with it; to treat nostalgia as more than just a cynical market force, but to weave a story around it. JJ Abrams has proven quite adept with this, given the success of The Force Awakens at understanding the appeal of Star Wars.

Creed is every bit as successful, engaging with its own legacy and the weight of its nostalgia in a manner that suggests that writer and director Ryan Coogler understands not only what makes Rocky work as a piece of film, but also the gravity that exerts.

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