'Creed II' director explains why hit sequel avoids current U.S.-Russia politics

By Kevin Polowy, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: Minor Creed II spoilers ahead.

With awards season upon us, many of the films hitting cinemas come served with a side of sociopolitical messages on topics from race relations to LGBT issues to methamphetamine addiction.

Creed II is not one of those movies. On the one (glove) hand, that’s unsurprising: This is a sports movie, a sequel to 2015’s Creed, itself a spinoff of the beloved Rocky series (1976-2006), shepherded to the big screen for so many years by Sylvester Stallone. On the other hand, though, the film’s storyline, mirroring the Rocky IV showdown between Rocky Balboa (Stallone) and Soviet rival Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), sets up not one but two tense transcontinental battles between Rocky’s protégé, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), and Ivan’s son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), at a time when the U.S. is still dealing with the aftermath of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump is under investigation for possible collusion. And while Rocky IV was not outwardly political, the Cold War loomed large in it, and Creed II feels very much like a sequel to Rocky IV, at least in premise.

FILE – This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures shows Michael B. Jordan, left, and Sylvester Stallone in a scene from “Creed II.” (Barry Wetcher/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP, File)

As director Steven Caple Jr. (The Land) told Yahoo Entertainment, entirely avoiding global politics was very much a conscious choice.

“Thankfully, Sly didn’t even want to do that,” Caple said of Stallone, very much still the keymaster to the extended universe, who not only reprised his role as Balboa but also co-wrote the screenplay (with Juel Taylor) and served as a producer on the film.

The filmmakers instead wanted to focus on the personal trials and tribulations of its characters, from Adonis adapting to life as the new heavyweight champ, not to mention fatherhood, to Rocky’s loneliness and estrangement from his son Robert to Drago Sr.’s attempt to redeem the family name after being banished to Ukraine.

“No one really wanted to touch upon that. We’ve seen so much stuff on the news, and we knew we were coming on Thanksgiving,” Caple said. “It was like, ‘What do we really want to feed people?’”

“We wanted people to walk away thinking about family and legacy, not necessarily politics. We felt like we were surrounded — almost drowned — by what’s going on right now. When we started developing the characters … Sly first … there wasn’t that element. And when I approached the project, I [didn’t] think it was necessary. … There was so much story, and love within the project, I think there’s a different way to tackle it without using this as a platform to say something.”

Creed II is now playing.

Watch Yahoo Entertainment’s “Role Recall” interview with Dolph Lundgren:

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