Creed II First Reviews: A Solid, if Predictable, Sequel

Early critic reactions say the follow-up holds few surprises, but still packs an emotional punch.

by | November 16, 2018 | Comments

Following the success of Creed, the next sequel in the long-running Rocky franchise is exceeding a lot of critics’ low expectations. While the ultimate decision of its merits is mostly mixed as far as whether it’s a good or bad movie, Creed II is a satisfying follow-up to not just the previous installment, according to the initial reviews, but also 1985’s Rocky IV, mainly thanks to the cast and character development, as well as the comfort of what fans want from this series.

Here’s what the first wave of critics are saying about Creed II:

Is it a worthy successor to Creed?

Taken on its own terms, the movie is a rousing and effective sequel.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Given the never-ending production line of lazy inferior sequels, it’s such a joy to encounter one that feels necessary.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

[It] impressively re-creates the chief source of that movie’s delight: a group of characters who…were a warm, easygoing pleasure to spend time with.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

It’s not quite as smart as Creed, or quite as beautiful, and it doesn’t have as much depth or nuance or texture. But it’s got enough to deliver something satisfying and sweet.
Angie Han, Mashable

What about Rocky IV?

Creed II is a direct spiritual sequel to Rocky IV. And, dammit, they pulled it off.
– Mike Ryan, Uproxx

Thankfully, Ivan and Viktor are way more fleshed out than any of the Russians were in Rocky IV.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Refreshingly, the Dragos are not portrayed as cartoon villains…it’s almost more difficult to sympathize with Adonis Creed himself.
– Don Kaye, Den of Geek

The adversaries remain such a huge part of the story that one wonders if they’re being set up for a spinoff.
– Karen Han, Polygon

Barry Wetcher/MGM

(Photo by Barry Wetcher/MGM)

But is it simply more of the same?

The movie feels less interested in creatively disrupting Rocky lore than repeating it.
Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Inquirer

This is familiar stuff, but Creed II works overtime to create the tangible suspense that the worst possible outcome might actually come to pass.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Agreeably paint-by-numbers…Sometimes the familiarity that comes with a sequel — especially with good actors — can be a blessing in short-handing a dramatic tone.
Robert Abele, The Wrap

It’s comforting to remember that sameness is one of the reasons we go to a boxing picture in the first place.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

How are the fights?

Creed II is visceral and grueling in the ring.
– Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

While the fights remain undeniably involving, there’s a dazzle missing and nothing wows with quite the same impact.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

The fights between Drago and Donnie are solid, but nothing like the exceptional, unforgettable ones in the last movie.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

The fights fall curiously flat. There’s no coherent sense of movement.
Karen Han, Polygon

Is Ryan Coogler sorely missed as director, then?

While [Steven] Caple Jr. has a good sense of storytelling and filmmaking style…there’s nothing on the level of, say, the original’s single-shot fight scene.
David Fear, Rolling Stone

Caple took on an even riskier assignment by doing the sequel. Thankfully he succeeded and did it by focusing on the characters and not the legend of the IP.
Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider

Caple maintains [the previous] film’s grounded approach, but he uses more traditional signifiers of grit…and less of Coogler’s thrilling showmanship.
Jesse Hassenger, AV Club

Barry Wetcher/MGM

(Photo by Barry Wetcher/MGM)

What are Stallone’s Oscar chances this time?

Oscar-nominated for his somewhat revelatory performance last time, Stallone is equally impressive here.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

Stallone is in fine form here but, even more than he did in the first Creed, cedes the spotlight to his costar.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Stallone, robbed of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, has turned his iconic character into a grizzled Yoda.
– Mara Reinstein, US Weekly

How is Michael B. Jordan?

[He] delivers a performance that shows why he’s a movie star. His charisma matched with his talent is a total package that any franchise dreams of.
Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider

Jordan holds the screen with his intensity and vulnerability — a winning one-two combination.
– Rafer Guzman, Newsday

[Not] Jordan’s finest two hours…these addled states seem to make not only his character but the actor himself clam up and seem uncommunicative and confused.
– Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Barry Wetcher/MGM

(Photo by Barry Wetcher/MGM)

What about Tessa Thompson?

[She’s] granite-solid as always.
– David Fear, Rolling Stone

Tessa Thompson proves that she’s not here to just play supportive eye-candy.
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

As a performer, Thompson is just so magnetic; it’s frustrating that she doesn’t get a bit more to do.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

Sadly, Tessa Thompson’s Bianca, such a vital presence in the first film, has lost most of her spunky charm.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Is their chemistry still strong?

Jordan and Thompson remain a potent combination of strength and vulnerability.
Jesse Hassenger, AV Club

There’s a genuine, palpable connection between the two, strong enough for the film to revolve entirely around their romance.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

Thompson and Jordan share an effortless, persuasively prickly chemistry.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Despite Jordan’s and Thompson’s best efforts, the film sags when it’s out of the ring.
Karen Han, Polygon

Are there any major problems?

Creed II offers zero surprises, give or take an amazing cameo.
Mara Reinstein, US Weekly

It never quite comes up with a new character or situation that attains an iconic status all its own.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

The biggest issue is that the movie’s narrative seems perfunctory and Adonis Creed’s motivations fuzzy.
Don Kaye, Den of Geek

At the core of Creed II’s problems is that its premise diminishes its hero.
Sam Adams, Slate

Creed II opens everywhere on November 21. Read all the reviews for it here.


Creed II (2018)

Adjusted Score: 102077%
Critics Consensus: Creed II's adherence to franchise formula adds up to a sequel with few true surprises, but its time-tested generational themes still pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: In 1985, Russian boxer Ivan Drago killed former U.S. champion Apollo Creed in a tragic match that stunned the world.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.

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