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“Creed II”, or “How to Train Your Drago”

Creed II!

This time around, “Baby Creed” has a happier, less insulting context.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Creed, the seventh film in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series, was one of my two favorite films of 2015. It was the first major-studio film for director Ryan Coogler, whose debut Fruitvale Station was my favorite film of 2013. This year’s Coogler model, the amazing colossal Black Panther, will be ranking very, very high for this year’s standings. Tangential note: remember how Black Panther was a 2018 release, even though it feels five years old by now, because 2018 has been that kind of year?

I was a little nervous knowing Coogler would be handing over the reins of Creed II to a relative newcomer, one Steven Caple, Jr. Granted, we knew the main cast would be back — Stallone himself, Thor: Ragnarok‘s Tessa Thompson’s Bianca (levels above the standard Concerned Girlfriend), and of course Michael B. Jordan, star of Fruitvale Station and costar of Black Panther and season 1 of The Wire, which I will never, ever stop name-checking. With the larger-than-life core of Creed still intact, could failure possibly be an option?

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“Creed” and the Fight to Mean Something

Creed!

You wanna climb to the top, be ready to do the footwork.

It was probably unfair of me to assume Creed would be one of my favorite films of 2015 before I walked into the theater. Previously in the tragic Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan together made my favorite film of 2013. A year earlier, Jordan costarred in Chronicle, a left-field surprise that became my no-contest favorite of 2012. Prior to that, he was in season one of The Wire and thereby granted a lifetime pass for any future catastrophes beyond his control.

On the other hand, I’d only seen three of the six Rocky films — the first one as part of a successful ’90s mission to watch every Best Picture Oscar winner ever; Rocky III at the drive-in, where a furious, pre-laughingstock Mr. T frightened 10-year-old me almost to tears; and the shamelessly jingoistic yet totally engrossing Rocky IV, the only time in my life I’ve ever seen dudes in a theater jumping out of their seats and cheering and fist-pumping at all-American awesomeness overload. Yes, really. I’ve never felt the urge to keep up with the Italian Stallion since then, or to backtrack for the second one.

So in fairness, I had to allow that Creed could’ve gone either way.

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