Sylvester Stallone, left, and Michael B. Jordan attended the world premiere of Creed II at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, in New York. Picture: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

In the annals of potentially disastrous spin-offs, Creed surely stands as an all-time champion. 

Directed with finesse and sensitivity by Ryan Coogler - the 2015 drama had it all: a classically contoured boxing story, a strong emotional core, rich, deeply felt atmosphere and a strikingly good cast led by Michael B. Jordan.

Creed II is a respectable, if not revelatory, sequel to the sequel, even if it lacks its predecessor’s grace and narrative texture.

This instalment finds Jordan’s Adonis Creed the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, and getting ready to propose to Bianca (Tessa Thompson), the beautiful neo-soul singer with whom he lives in Philadelphia. 

Still haunted by the absence of his father Apollo - who met his death at the merciless hands of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV - Adonis barely has time to recover from his championship bout when he’s challenged by Ivan’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu).

Creed II leans heavily into the larger-than-life dimensions of Adonis’s struggle, even as it pays close attention to the subtleties at play in his domestic life.

His trainer Rocky Balboa, played by Stallone in a sad-eyed, punch-drunk turn that’s somehow modest and self-serving at the same time, still visits his late wife’s grave, in between delivering slurred sermons to his protégé about guts, heart and what’s really worth fighting for.

Because Rocky still blames himself for Apollo’s death, and because Viktor has become a stone-cold killer under the tutelage of his father Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), Creed II is suffused with grim father-son drama, as well as regrets.

The action picks up considerably in the third act, its bluntly efficient training and fight sequences combining with a slew of callbacks, hat-tips and surprise comebacks to create a rousing and thoroughly enjoyable finale.

Creed II has ensured that the franchise lives on, bloodied but unbowed. 

Washington Post