MOVIE REVIEW: Still plenty of fight left in the Rocky movies
CREED II (M)
Rating: Three and a half stars (3.5 out of 5)
Director: Steven Caple Jr. (The Land)
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu.
Retains the title of everyone's favourite glove story
The Rocky Balboa saga has certainly had its ups and downs since it first staggered into the ring over four decades ago.
While it has sometimes been forced to change weight divisions (or even take a breather for several years at a time) for its rightful share of the box-office prize, the franchise has never, ever lost the goodwill of a fervently devoted following.
This second Creed instalment - which also constitutes the eight chapter in the Rocky chronicles - proves yet again that all of those hard-fought wins and heartbreaking losses continue to count for something.
While Creed II isn't quite as fresh or fleet of foot as its predecessor, it still lands telling blows in all the right places, and ends with its arms held aloft in triumph.
Now the undisputed world champ, the brilliant boxer Adonis Creed (a charismatic Michael B. Jordan) is still young, but not so hungry as he used to be.
Once upon a time, proving himself with his fists was all that mattered. Other priorities have kicked in. Defending the title continually requires a head for business, rather than a heart for the fight.
Adonis has also asked his long-time love Bianca (Tessa Thompson) "if you wouldn't mind marrying me too much." Her career as a singer has mirrored his ascent as a boxer, and their shared desire to start a family will definitely change the course of both upward trajectories.
Perhaps a grudge match against Ukrainian man-mountain Viktor Drago - son of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), the notorious fighter who killed his father - might re-motivate our hero?
Adonis' veteran trainer, the Italian Stallion himself, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), is not so sure.
Old Rock (whose pearls of punch-drunk wisdom sound more and more like a Yoda born and bred in Philly) was there for the original Creed-Drago bout, and he knows deep down that history like this has a knack of repeating when given half the chance.
The franchise formula of an underdog overcoming impossible odds gets a few mild tweaks during Creed II, but nothing that will scare die-hard fans away.
They'll be too busy steeling themselves for the cracking stoush that awaits when the bell rings for the final act.
The injection of the Dragos senior and junior (who don't say much, but convey a rich back story every bit as vital as Creed himself) is the master stroke here, allowing little room for the movie to indulge in some of the more sappy interludes which have been staples in the past.