The eighth installment in the Rocky film franchise, Creed II, opens in theaters everywhere next week, and early reviews for the sequel to 2015's Creed have started to come in. Following the rising boxer Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed decides to avenge his father's death by challenging the son of the man that killed Apollo in the ring, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Despite warnings from his partner Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and mentor Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis puts everything on the line to restore his family's legacy by facing the younger Drago (Florian Munteanu).
With Creed director and writer Ryan Coogler now only attached on the sequel as an executive producer due to his commitments with this year's Black Panther, his absence in the director's seat is missed by most critics citing the unremarkable cinematography, ham-fisted dialogue, and lazy pacing as definite areas of improvement while lauding performances by Jordan, Thompson, and Stallone in keeping the audience invested in the story overall.
The film currently has a 77 percent score on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes; here is a selection of early reviews for Creed II:
Jesse Hassenger, AV Club: "Creed II feels a little muffled by its workmanlike touches, especially when it gets in the ring. Just as Rocky was too low-key and charming to spawn a fully worthy successor for several decades, Creed so elevates its franchise roots that even a pretty good sequel can’t land with the same impact. Then again, a 2018 movie called Creed II expanding on Rocky IV to become one of the better Rocky movies may be another minor miracle on its own."
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: "Creed II slavishly follows the sentimental-palooka Rocky template as if it were a sacred text. Still, it doesn’t make those old rope-a-dope tropes any less effective. Especially when Stallone — as Adonis’ trainer, shrink, and father-confessor — is still able to summon the same mumbly poignancy that first made him a movie star 40 years ago."
Ian Freer, Empire Magazine: "After the first film, it feels like a regressive step. First time round Coogler’s footwork was fast, his power both pinpoint-accurate and devastating. Creed II only connects occasionally. Creed II is to Creed what the Rocky sequels are to the original: a more generic, less textured take on familiar boxing movie tropes. The difference, it seems, is Coogler."
Robert Abele, TheWrap: "The truth is that Rocky IV and Creed II sharing the same cinematic universe requires supreme suspension of disbelief. But taken as descendants of the original, Rocky IV is the delinquent you never talk about, while Creed II at least knows how to keep the family business humming."
Eric Kohn, IndieWire: "This slick and involving sequel finds Adonis continuing to work through the weight of his father’s death in the ring, follows all the familiar motions revived with Creed. But in the context of this resilient franchise, the movie hits each beat with the calculated precision of its tireless fighter."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "Audiences happy to see the same old scenario played out all over again, albeit with far less suspense than before, might be willing to swallow this regurgitation of used ingredients, as may the vast number of young people who have never seen the original series. However, not only are the boxing matches shot in an entirely conventional manner, particularly compared to the wonderfully inventive approach to the fights taken by Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti the first time around, but the domestic scenes are listless. The script is stuffed with corny bashfulness on Creed's part, and there's page after page of expository dialogue."
Tom Jorgensen, IGN: "The only thing driving the story forward is the strength of Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Sylvester Stallone’s performances, but they’re nearly lost in a sea of missed opportunities. Die-hard fans of the franchise will probably enjoy this grudge match, but for those that discovered it through the 2015 film and go in expecting something just as weighty, well, you’ve got a ten count to beat and something tells me the disappointment of seeing all the flashes of what this movie could’ve been is going to keep you on the mat."
Sam Adams, Slate: "The movie occasionally works in its own crude way, and there’s enough residual feeling left in Jordan’s and Thompson’s performances to stir even the skeptical heart. But it’s depressing that after Creed’s success, Creed II feels like it’s just a step above a straight-to-video knockoff, designed to get a little more from the first movie’s audience but not to increase it."
Creed II is directed by Stephen Caple Jr. (The Land) from a script written by Sylvester Stallone and Cheo Hodari Coker (Luke Cage). The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, and Phylicia Rashad. The film arrives in theaters on November 21.