Disclaimer: 1. Yes, I am the girl who sent out a photoshopped tweet of herself and Michael B. Jordan that went viral, yes I ended up meeting him and getting a real picture, and yes he was kind and funny and smelled like wealth and a kiss on the collarbone. Glad we got that out of the way. 2. I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t warn you, friends. Creed II poses a conundrum. You will need the largest size of over-priced movie soda in order to attempt to combat the extreme thirst one may experience during this movie, but also, because narratively and directorially, the film is just so damn compelling, you will be loathed to miss a second of it due to multiple bathroom breaks. I don’t know what the solution is. Perhaps adult nappies? I propose that tickets to this film are sold with the option of adult nappies.
Boxing is arguably one of the most inherently, prototypically, masculine sports. It involves ripped guys with rippling muscles, glistening in sweat and beating each other up for no discernible reason but to prove that one is stronger than the other. It’s kind of crass, incredibly brutal—and yet, in the context of Creed II, the latest installment of the iconic Rocky series and second film focusing on Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Johnson the sport is depicted with elegance and tenderness. It’s a martial interpretive dance and… OK, yeah, I cannot do this. I tried. Let's talk about the hot characters!
Yes, there was an elegance in the second installment of the Jordan-led boxing film franchise. And yes it was artfully, sumptuously shot by director Steven Caple Jr. but I feel it would be obtuse of me not to note that everyone in it is stressfully beautiful. I’m talking, hot as hell. Not fine but foinneee. So foine, you gotta draw the elocution of “foine” out, to make it as long as your jaw will inevitably be when you first see Michael B. Jordan’s exposed arms looking thick enough for Fashion Nova to throw him a sponsorship deal. Those curves and dips! Creed II is a great sports drama that hits all the right notes and packs a punch (sorry) and I want everybody to go see it.
Here's why: Creed II follows Jordan’s Adonis, (seriously, hello normative determinism), three years after the first film. He has just won the title of heavyweight champion of the world under the tutelage of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, and in a particularly adorable scene, puts a Jupiter-sized rock on the finger of his talented, beautiful girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson, an utter dream) who anchors him. However, the glow of success and young love is darkened by a shadow from the past pulled into the present. Ivan Drago, the man who killed Apollo Creed (Adonis’ father) in the ring decades before—and who was later defeated by Rocky—wants to reclaim his legacy and erase his disgrace by using his son, Viktor, a gorgeous mountain of a man, who seems like he might have been weaned on engine oil and raw buffalo meat. Drago campaigns for Viktor to challenge Rocky’s ward to a match and history threatens to repeat itself.
You would assume that it’s the sheer physicality of Donny and Viktor (Florian Munteanu aka BigNasty on Instagram . Yes, it is brilliant. Yes, you should follow him. He is delightful.) that makes them so attractive. This is a given. The men are at their physical peak and their extensive training scenes involve exercises that include pounding the desert ground shirtless with some sort of large hammer and doing pull-ups with huge weights between their legs. If you like men, both Donny and Viktor cater to two different tastes that are equally exquisite; one lither, one more hefty. It’s easy for them to be hot; however, in my scholarly opinion, as a Thirstiologist, this isn’t what makes them so attractive. Jordan and Munteanu do an excellent job of making hot jocks interesting. In a testosterone-strewn film franchise that has had its brutal moments, the men manage to weave tenderness and vulnerability through their performances.
We see this when Donny proposes to Bianca, clumsily, fumbling and nervous. Dude just won heavyweight champion of the world—he has just brought a huge, grown man to his knees—and here he is, on one knee, pouring his heart to the woman he loves, a quivering mess. He glugs half a bottle of champagne just to get the words out. He is beholden to her. It is precious. Donny’s masculinity, though infuriatingly pig-headed at times, is sweet, tender and fragile—not just because of ego—but because, despite often being so physically exposed, he wears himself inside out, heart on the sleeve of his muscle shirt. He isn’t afraid to cry and mostly manages to toe the fine line between ultra-masculinity and machismo. And when it does slip into something close to toxic, he acknowledges it. A man holding himself accountable? In touch with his emotions? Dare we say sexy. Perhaps Creed II is the first sports-drama-fantasy. Also, apologies for heteronormative basicness, but we also see him cradling a tiny baby in his sinewy arms a lot. Jordan wears both strength and softness as comfortably as he wears very fitted shirts.
Which is why Munteaneu (Big Nasty if you’re…nasty ) is particularly impressive. Viktor was reared as a brutal fighting machine with little affection and yet this Everest of a man (with thighs like sequoias) has grey eyes that are sweet and soft and sad. We get a sense that he’s gentle, deep, deep down, underneath all the muscle. We root for Creed, of course—he is the hero—but it says something about Manteaunu’s ability, that at various points in the film, you just want to give him the cuddle he so obviously craves from his daddy and absentee mommy (a brilliantly icy Brigitte Nielsen). He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t need to—you know that he would prefer a chill day on a sofa, in your arms, head against your bosom binging The Real Housewives with you. He just wants love! A lion that would purr like a kitty with a loving hand petting him. Viktor is a big man, very capable of looking after himself, and he does our hero some considerable damage, and yet somehow, Munteaneu makes us, if not sympathetic, empathetic. He is capable of eliciting a guilty compulsion to want to protect, despite him wanting to pummel our hero into dust.
Creed II succeeds in elegantly tangling the tender and the tough, weaving it through a prism that could be hypermasculine, and sweetens it, through romance and parental issues, drawing out the humanity of both men. This is the key to their appeal.
Though Adonis and Viktor are fine, what makes them foinee goes beyond their mere appearance; it is a willing vulnerability that they pull into their performances, the glistening eyes, the trembling lips, Donny on his knees in front of Bianca’s pregnant self, kissing her belly, silently asking his new family for forgiveness. It is Viktor visibly crumbling when he notices his mother is no longer in the audience during a match. Creed II tells us that these men who rely on their sheer physical might and muscle are near powerless when it comes to the heart. The exposure of what lies beneath the skin is almost as sexy–if not more than that which is on show.