‘Creed II’ packs a punch

The passing of the torch can be a tough thing to watch. On one hand, it’s a generational thing, but on the other, it’s carving out a new path for those facing their own struggles and challenges.

What is interesting in “Creed II” is that the storyline starts in the past with Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago and his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) on the streets of Russia.

This is a major turning point in the story. His character is there for a major shift in the overall tone and structure of the film.

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is now the heavyweight champion of the world. He looks up to and sees Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa as a father figure.

After the success of “Creed” in 2015, the movie studios were clamoring for a follow-up. That was acknowledged when Stallone was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Stallone lost to Mark Rylance in Steven Spielberg’s equally amazing tale, “Bridge of Spies.”

 Michael Jordan, left, and Sylvester Stalone star in “Creed II.”

Michael Jordan, left, and Sylvester Stalone star in “Creed II.”

Tessa Thompson as Bianca and Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed offer great support in “Creed II.” Bianca is with Adonis and is on the verge of hitting it big on the music scene. Mary Anne is the widow of Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed, who gets killed in Stallone’s “Rocky IV,” one of the biggest hits of 1985.

Going back to “Creed II,” Russell Hornsby plays a Don King-like promoter who stages fights and likes to give the boxers their big pay day. If he looks familiar that is because he spent the better part of a decade on the underrated NBC show “Grimm” as Portland cop Hank Griffin.

Also making a very brief appearance is Brigitte Nielsen as Ludmilla Drago, Ivan’s ex-spouse and Viktor’s mom. She is no longer with Ivan, rather someone who just takes care of herself and satisfies her ego and self-worth.

The trouble is that at the end of “Rocky IV,” Drago was looked down upon by the masses as an outright failure and second-class citizen. When his son starts beating other champions, Drago finds a way to be viewed with honor and pride again.

If one looks closely at the credits, they will see that Stallone also contributed to the screenplay as he has for most of the “Rocky” franchise movies. He also gets a producing credit with co-producers David Winkler, Irwin Winkler, William Chartoff, Charles Winkler and Kevin King Templeton.

Directing credit goes to Steven Caple Jr., who won a couple of Black Reel awards for his 2016 film “The Land.” Caple was also nominated in 2014 for the short film “A Different Tree.”

“Creed II” knows its pace and limitations, so it never settles into the doldrums. There are a few hokey spots, but that comes with the “Rocky” territory. Grade: B