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  1. (A&F links to Rocky Balboa (2006) and Creed (2015).) I've always loved these films because of their continually going back to the themes of family, history, and heritage. I don't think Stallone could have done better than by picking Michael B. Jordan as the hero to pass the torch to in order to keep carrying the story, and it looks like this next film is as much about torch bearing as ever. Todd Gilchrist, Moviefone: “After six “Rocky” films, “Creed” was a remarkable triumph -- what seemed superfluous at best became essential. The first "Creed" movie is not just a great entertainment, but it is also a catharsis for one character and a vivid introduction for another. Consequently, “Creed II” only needed to be a well-deserved victory lap for Michael B. Jordan, who rocketed to stardom as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, not to mention Sylvester Stallone, whose signature series passed to more than capable shepherds. But like its predecessor, this kinda-sorta double sequel (both to its immediate predecessor and to “Rocky IV”) wrestles with powerful issues, deepens the first film’s characterizations, and resolves lingering details in the franchise’s timelines with humanity and grace. "Creed II" elevates the literal and metaphorical challenges of following up improbable success to something meaningful and eventually transcendent of the formulas that it relies upon ... Even as the film falls into the sometimes predictable rhythms of the series -- triumphant victories giving way to devastating defeats, and vice versa -- writers Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor showcase what seems like a very real feeling for competitors at the top of their game, and Donnie feels unfocused and perhaps appropriately decentralized in his own story. He is less a person than a character in a narrative that the world is determined to control -- a narrative that loves nothing more than perfect parallel lines between generations as one yields for the next to secure its own legacy. In the first half of Donnie’s journey, he seems to be doing what he thinks he’s supposed to, or is afraid not to -- a realistic and understandable course of action for a kid who, by the end of the first film, had only begun to discover himself, much less his febrile talents. But abject losses have a way of forcing reflection upon people who pursue excellence, and director Steven Caple Jr. harnesses these necessary, almost predetermined story beats and turns them into moments of searing introspection -- and, eventually, powerful self-actualization. Jordan, proving again he has more than enough charisma and talent to be both a movie star and bona fide actor, returns to a character facing questions that undoubtedly hit close to home as he plots his next career move: Once you’ve earned success, how much is enough? And more vitally, what drives that pursuit? The young actor’s physical commitment to the role is readily visible, but it’s the overall sharpness of his performance, including moments of heartbreaking vulnerability, that elevate his journey from the son of Apollo Creed to his own man ... Because “Creed II” works wonderfully as a follow-up to the first “Creed” and the fourth “Rocky,” but the similarities to those earlier films are quite frankly the least of its charms. And like Adonis, what proves most remarkable is how successfully what could easily be dismissed as a lesser copy or pale imitation combats a suffocating legacy to prove it can, and should, stand on its own.” Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist: "There’s a Confucius-style tenant written somewhere in the annals of screenplay writing 101—presumably written by a giant like William Goldman (R.I.P.)—that goes a little something like this: if you truly and deeply care about the characters everything else is gravy. To augment that somewhat, if you deeply empathize with a superhero, his fate and everyone they care about, all their epic battles and obstacles are that much more gripping—you are invested emotionally in what happens because the movie has successfully captured your heart. This very basic, but often forgotten, story fundamental is thankfully not forgotten in the ongoing superhero genre of boxing movies. And in “Creed II,” director Steven Caple Jr.,as well as writers Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone, understand emotional investment and stakes which make every blow in the film land that much harder.” Sam C. Mac, Slant Magazine: “There’s one substantial deviation from this predetermined path: a section in the middle of Creed II in which Adonis, recuperating from broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, settles down with his girlfriend, R&B singer-songwriter Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Jordan and Thompson are excellent in a lovely and anxious scene in which Adonis proposes to Bianca; the actors make their characters’ progression into married life, and eventually their role as parents, believable and moving. And while this emphasis on familial bonds may not be new to the series—in Rocky IV, Apollo and Rocky behave like brothers, and Rocky’s relationship to Adrian was given its own space to develop—there’s something uniquely special about the portrayal of family in Creed II, namely the way Adonis, Bianca, and their baby girl, Amara, come to represent perhaps the first dynastic black family in a major studio franchise. (That’s a development that may well have come from Coogler, a credited producer here, given that his Black Panther is similarly invested in a sense of lineage.)”
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