In between the fighting set-pieces is a constant story of mental, emotional, and physical exertion taxes the viewer. Creed 2 makes you endure what Adonis endures; an endless test of the limits of his body that can feel tiresome and familiar. His prolonged series of trials inside and outside the ring--despite spit, blood, walnut-sized swollen eyes and cracked ribs--lose meaning without any real dramatic weight. By the conclusion, these exhaustive physical scenes even lessen the weight of Adonisâ€™ final confrontation with Drago; theyâ€™re so excruciating that the fightâ€™s outcome feels inevitable and even inconsequential.The fact that weâ€™re not always sure whether to be invested in Adonisâ€™ motivations doesnâ€™t help things either. At times heâ€™s admonished by his confidants for how short-sighted and dangerous his thirst is, and as Adonis, Jordan doesnâ€™t always make it clear where we should fall either. Is it right he wants to avenge Apollo? Does he have a greater truth thatâ€™s driving him? Does he inherently doubt himself? Despite the intrigue of these questions, Creed 2 is more concerned with getting to its inevitable rematch that the journey suffers for the destination.Creed 2â€™s women donâ€™t fare much better. They are often framed to represent Adonisâ€™ conscience and vulnerabilities, and while the addition of a new character heightens the tension of Creed's decisions inside and outisde of the ring, the women in his life donâ€™t get the character development they deserve. Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) rather Bruce Wayne-like, is most often seen brooding in her large, empty mansion, waiting to approve or disapprove of her sonâ€™s life choices. Biancaâ€™s unorthodox career as an aspiring recording artist, who is steadily losing her hearing, often feels tone deaf itself. She is treated as a series of character cues to move parts of the plot along as it serves Adonisâ€™ story, but her own story doesnâ€™t get the weight or severity it needs. As the story evolves, her characterâ€™s arc is repositioned and sidelined in the most obvious and disappointing way.The ineffective emotional stakes, watered-down drama, and threadbare relational conflicts make Creed 2 exceedingly impersonal. Wallowing in boxingâ€™s gladiatorial nature, without the dramatic sensibilities of the first film, Creed 2 is no more than spectacle, a collection of blood and bones. When boxing promoter Buddy Marcellus (Russell Hornsby) tells Adonis that his heavyweight title means nothing without a story behind it, his meta-commentary is an astute if inadvertent criticism of the film itself. While Creed 2 teases commenting on the long-term damage of boxing, it never commits to much beyond revenge porn. Thatâ€™s a shame because the movie, with Stalloneâ€™s misshapen mug, seems desperate to say something bigger. Creed 2 could have seriously interrogated the long-term emotional, mental, and physical effects of a boxing career; instead the film merely spars with Dragoâ€™s and Rockyâ€™s egos.[brightcove video_id="5970084234001" brightcove_account_id="3653334524001" brightcove_player_id=â€œrJs2ZD8xâ€]As he stalks his way to the ring for a final bout with Drago, Adonis has to consider whatâ€™s driving him. The answer to all of this and more--Creedâ€™s and Dragoâ€™s motivations, the actual spectacle of violence, and the creation of this sequel--sneaks its way into a song that Bianca sings as Adonis makes his way to his match-up. Itâ€™s an original composition that hinges on a hook we hear again and again as he walks to the ring: â€œit doesnâ€™t make sense but it makes dollars.â€
Images: MGM, Warner Bros.