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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Creed II -- the follow up to 2015's Creed -- is the eighth boxing drama in the Rocky saga and the second film to feature Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as the main character. This time around, with Rocky's (Sylvester Stallone) help, Adonis must fight the terrifying son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis' father in the ring. Adonis is seriously injured at one point, and you can expect plenty of boxing-movie violence (some of it pretty intense/wince-inducing). There's some swearing ("s--t," one comical use of "bitch"), a scene of mild sensuality between an engaged couple (no nudity), and brief social drinking. But viewers will also take away clear messages about the importance of courage, resilience, perseverance, and determination.
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What's the story?
In CREED II, newly crowned heavyweight champion Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is challenged by Ukrainian behemoth Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) -- the man who killed Adonis' own father in the ring. Mentor Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) doesn't want Adonis to take the fight. The young boxer has just gotten engaged to his love, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and they're expecting their first child. But after a devastating event in which Adonis is seriously injured, he seeks Rocky's help to face down the monster who's been training his whole life to destroy him. This film marks the eighth entry in the storied Rocky franchise and is the second, after 2015's Creed, to star Jordan.
Is it any good?
Despite some plot predictability and a little clunky dialogue, this film ably follows up Ryan Coogler's fine Creed with strong performances and emotional depth. New director Steven Caple Jr. displays a deft touch with his actors and brings interesting cinematic touches to a franchise not really known for them. You pretty much know what's going to happen in Creed II based on the trailer; heck, you pretty much know what's going to happen if you've seen any previous Rocky film. But it's not hard to go all in thanks to both the exciting boxing scenes and the chemistry between Jordan and Stallone in their surrogate father-and-son relationship. Jordan is simply a star at this point. His boxing skills are impressive, and so is his acting. There are layers of doubt and regret in the faces of the four main father-and-son warriors here (especially in Lundgren, delivering probably his best screen work yet) -- and deeper, more grown-up concerns than you might expect from the series. It doesn't have the street-level grit of Creed, but Caple takes it to a different place.
He makes some subtle but interesting choices, such as manipulating audio during a swimming pool training scene. He and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau (Thor: The Dark World) capture some of the most arresting images in the Rocky franchise, particularly in the obligatory training montage and when Adonis psyches himself up with quiet repetitions of "I'm the champ" as darkness envelops him. The boxing action feels particularly intense and unusually realistic for the series; when a character suffers a serious injury in the ring, we feel it. For some, the obviousness of the plot movement and dialogue such as "I'm a chunk of yesterday tryin' to be today" will blunt the film's appeal. But though the script lags behind the direction, acting, and action, Creed II is a clear stylistic step up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Creed II. Does it seem realistic? Is it necessary? Does it feel different from the violence in previous Rocky movies? If so, how?
Does the movie glamorize the sport of boxing (and the violence inherent in it) or provide an even-handed view of it? How does this kind of violence compare to what you might see in an action movie? Which has more impact, and why?
Father-and-son relationships are a key part of the film. How did that part of the story affect you?
Is Rocky a role model? What do Rocky and Adonis bring to each other's lives?
- In theaters: November 21, 2018
- Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
- Director: Steven Caple Jr.
- Studios: Annapurna Pictures, MGM
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality
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