Rachel Strange

“Creed II” is probably not as empirically good as its predecessor. But how could it be? No one was really expecting much from the low key, surprising “Rocky” follow up.

So when break out director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) and break out stars Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson captured our hearts in Creed, it had the advantage of us not really knowing to expect anything. Creed II has the disadvantage of both our now high expectations and not having Ryan Coogler back to direct.

And despite that, Creed II was still immensely enjoyable. I cheered during the obligatory training and redemption montage. When that famous Rocky Victory fanfare score played, it played me too. I literally put my fists up in the movie theater.

Yet, it was what I wasn’t expecting that most stuck with me in this movie. And what I wasn’t expecting was to care about the Dragos. Specifically Ivan Drago’s son, Viktor Drago, played by Florian Munteanu. He is Creed’s apparent antagonist both in and out of the ring. From a surface perspective, we know a few simple things about Victor. His mom left him after his father lost to Rocky Balboa in “Rocky IV”, and his father has put it on him to earn back their honor in Russian society through a victory over Adonis Creed.

But for what Munteanu is not given in terms of dialogue (he has nine lines in the whole movie) he makes up for in frequently subtle but always powerful portrayals of emotion. I never doubt what motivates Victor, but he never says one word about what is motivating him. Every moment he is on screen is compelling and impossible to look away from.

My prediction, or maybe my hope, is that in the same way “Creed” helped propel Michael B Jordan, “Creed 2” will launch Florian Munteanu. At the very least, he’d make a great Marvel villain.

Strange Perspective is a weekly look at all things pop culture by Progress columnist Rachel Strange.