The first Creed was all about Adonis, the late, great Apollo Creed’s bastard son who was unknown to the world, claiming his namesake. Could he follow in his father’s footsteps? Could he be a Creed? The final fight, despite Adonis losing, answers that question with a resounding yes.
Creed II picks up with a montage of fights that culminate in Adonis winning the WBC World Heavyweight Championship. Having achieved what his father achieved, this would seem to put to rest the legacy issues that had weighed on Adonis. Where will his story go from here?
Except Ivan Drago enters the picture. Drago’s the one who killed Apollo years ago in Rocky IV. And now he says his son, Viktor (the Hulk incarnate), will fight Creed and win. Uh oh.
We have the set-up for Adonis to avenge the death of his father. With the added twist of playing on the idea that maybe history will repeat itself and Viktor will kill Adonis. This is some good stuff and enough to base a movie around. Except Creed II takes it a little further by actually bringing in context not just from Rocky IV but also from Rocky II.
Rocky II follows up the underdog story of the first film by opening with Rocky embracing his newfound fame and fortune. Life seems good. Except, Rocky, never having had money before, spends and spends. To the point where he is almost broke and has to go back to working a part-time job. Not good. A forthcoming child and his marriage to Adrian (who also has to get a job) contextualize and heighten the financial burden and the sense of responsibility to provide for his family. His eventual rematch against Apollo is, even if he loses, a means of financial recovery. Which is nice. But winning the championship is a way to his family’s financial freedom. Which is even better!
Creed II doesn’t explore the financial burden. But it does borrow the added layers of marriage and parenthood to heighten and contextualize the reason our hero fights. In Creed II, that reason seems to be, at first, “I want to avenge my father.” But by the end of the movie, it’s clear there’s much more going on.
Overall, Creed II examines the influence a father has on a child and the child has on the father.
We’re going to focus specifically on the film’s four instances of father-son relationships.
1. Apollo’s death means Adonis connects with his dad by walking in his dad’s footsteps.
2. Rocky and his son haven’t spoken in years.
3. Ivan and Viktor have one another.
4. Adonis and Rocky have adopted one another as substitute father and son
The father-son dynamic drives almost every scene and plot development.
By winning the title, Adonis felt closer to Apollo than ever before. This is empowering, until Ivan and Viktor enter the picture. Adonis is suddenly terrified that if he continues to be like his father then he’s fated to die at the hands of a Drago.
On the flipside, we have Ivan and Viktor. Ivan’s legacy regarding Apollo empowers Viktor against Adonis. The first match between the two rehashes the battle between their fathers. While Adonis doesn’t die, he comes close.
Creed II, at this point, is no longer a revenge film.
It’s actually twisted the initial concept. Adonis can no longer be his father because to be his father means to die at the hands of Viktor. He must be his own man. Unsure of how to do this, scared of doing this, saddened by this, Adonis goes into a depression.
Rocky’s arc in the movie deals with the non-existent relationship with his own son. Rocky felt guilty for not spending more time with Robert—he perceived himself as a failed faither, and that guilt caused him to keep Robert at a distance. Guilt became fear of Robert’s potential anger and/or rejection. Then fear became shame. And that shame has kept Rocky estranged from his son for years.
When Adonis wants to fight Viktor, it triggers a similar shame, guilt, fear, and perceived failure. Rocky had been the coach for Apollo in the Drago fight all those years ago. Rocky not throwing in the towel to stop the fight led to Apollo’s death.
Now Adonis, Rocky’s pseudo-son, has asked Rocky to stand in the corner again. All Rocky can think of is that failure/fear/guilt/shame. So he refuses. Rocky’s decision alientates Adonis, sundering (for the time being) their relationship. This is a recreation of Rocky’s relationship with Robert.
When Adonis is almost killed by Viktor, what Rocky tried to avoid returns all the same: shame, fear, guilt and failure.
Rocky now has the opportunity to save Adonis in a way he couldn’t save Apollo. Beyond that, Rocky has the opportunity to make amends with a son. It’s easier with Adonis than Robert because Adonis is a boxer. Rocky’s comfort with boxing and speaking-in-boxing overcomes his anxiety at whether or not he can be a father.
When Rocky helps Adonis become his own man and beat Drago, there’s catharsis. That catharsis with one son allows Rocky to seek catharsis with the other son. Which is why his last scene is him showing up at Robert’s. There’s a moment of tension when Rocky’s grandson asks Robert who Rocky is. Will Robert say something like, “Just an old man,” or “He’s a famous boxer,” and break Rocky’s heart? Instead, we get the most forgiving and inclusive response, “That’s your grandfather.” With that, we all know things will be okay between them.
Ivan had been the pride of Russia. Adored then thrown away. He views Viktor’s success as a path back not only to the good graces of his country but to his wife, Viktor’s mother. She had abandoned Ivan and Viktor after the loss to Rocky.
To recover what’s been lost, Ivan pushes and pushes and pushes Viktor. And Viktor, out of love, out of respect, out of pride, rises to the occasion. Following his victory over Adonis and subsequent spree of wins to become the number one contender, the Russian leaders re-accept Ivan and Viktor. We even see Viktor’s mother pay attention to Ivan again.
Similar to Adonis confronting his father’s legacy beyond the championship and finding himself afraid. Viktor becomes aware of Ivan’s legacy beyond Apollo and he too becomes afraid. The stoic, terrifying presence gives way to worry, frustration, anxiety. These are emotional issues Viktor’s never had to face before.
The rematch with Adonis is in Viktor’s favor until it isn’t. And the fairweather Russian delegates, including Viktor’s mom, leave. This is an emotional uppercut Viktor can’t recover from, as he, much like Adonis in the first fight, is overwhelmed by the weight of history. But finds himself unable to quit. Much like Apollo against Ivan all those years ago. Which led to Apollo’s death.
Ivan realizes the same thing. To break the cycle, Ivan, for maybe the first time ever, puts his son ahead of his wounded pride, and throws in the towel. It’s a moment where Ivan understands his son is more important than country or legacy. The match over, in a moment of vulnerability and love, Ivan drops his guard and hugs and comforts Viktor.
Adonis punches the past goodbye
When Rocky appears in LA to help Adonis out of his funk, they meet in Apollo’s trophy room. The trophies represent the very legacy that’s haunting Adonis. Rocky even tells him, “You could have the same.” Goes on to say:
Rocky: You could have the better stuff. A better life. Be a better man. You know I was thinking about what you were saying about what smart decisions have I made lately. I couldn’t think of any. I wasn’t even there when my son’s son, my grandson, was born. He’s that tall now probably. I don’t even know, he doesn’t know me. It’s pathetic.
Adonis: Why won’t you just call him.
Rocky: It’s not that easy, ya know. Listen, I don’t want you making the same mistakes I made. You know what I mean. Ask yourself, what’s the valuable stuff. It’s like I asked you before. What were you really fighting for.
Adonis: I was afraid. Of this [facing the trophies]. Expectations. Being the champ. I was scared I couldn’t do what he could. It’s weird. I used to feel like he was a part of me. Now I can’t hear him. That thing. That thing that tells me to get in the ring, move my feet, keep my hands up, hit anything that gets in my way. I can’t hear it anymore. I don’t even know how I lost it.
Rocky: Your mind wasn’t right. And your natural style won’t work with a guy that big.
Adonis: Saying yours was better?
Rocky: I won didn’t I?
The two laugh and it’s clear they’re reunited.
It’s after this talk that Bianca goes into labor.
Keep in mind Adonis talks about having always heard his father’s voice but being unable to now. His daughter, Amara, is born deaf, a byproduct of Bianca’a progressive degenerative hearing disorder.
Adonis metaphorically can’t hear his father’s voice, then has a daughter who literally can’t hear Adonis’s voice.
At first Adonis is worried and upset. But it’s through his developing relationship with his daughter that he’s drawn back to boxing. It’s no longer his father’s voice he needs to hear, but his daughter’s. At a moment of deep frustration, Adonis brings Amara to the gym. It’s here he reconnects with boxing, striking the bag, at first softly, then with growing interest and power. All while Amara watches. Symbolismmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
This is ultimately what makes the difference between Adonis and Viktor. Viktor still has the burden of Ivan. Where Adonis—having Bianca and Amara, being a husband, being a father, having a family—is freed and empowered. While the lack of Apollo’s voice had scared him, it’s absence allowed him to find a new strength.
When Viktor knocks Adonis down and seemingly out, the sound drops out of the film. We see Adonis struggle. We see random people in the crowd screaming. We see Rocky yelling. We see his mom yelling. But there’s still no sound—they’re all silent. Then, out of the silence, comes one voice. Bianca’s. His wife. The mother of his daughter. “Get up.” It’s then Adonis rages then regains his feet. The ref asks him what’s his name. Adonis screams Creed. Then kicks the shit out of Viktor.
Creed defeats Drago. History can fuck off.
Start vs. End
God, the very first scene of the movie is Viktor and Ivan starting their day in total silence. They work side-by-side, Ivan trains Viktor, but the two never speak. Compare that to the last scene. Adonis at Apollo’s grave, talking to his dad (the first time we’ve seen him do this).
“I did it. But I didn’t do it for you. Or because of them. I did it because it was my fight. When I stepped into that ring, it wasn’t just about me. Sometimes we think we have to do it all on our own. But we don’t. I want to introduce you to somebody.”
All of the father/child dynamics between the Creed II characters aren’t there to give the fight stakes. The fight serves the purpose of allowing the characters to find catharsis in their relationships. Sym-bol-is-m.