Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) wins the heavyweight title belt early on in Creed II, which opens today in theaters across the country. But for much of the movie, the guy doesn’t feel like much of a champion. He feels beaten, humiliated and scared. And a fight against Viktor Drago—a mountain of a man (and the son of Ivan Drago, the boxer who killed Adonis’ father) looms.
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis’ trainer, knows the fight will be the biggest in Adonis’ young life. Training in Philadelphia or L.A. won’t cut it this time, not with a challenge this big. So Rocky takes him into a dusty, hot, middle-of-nowhere spot that looks straight out of a Mad Max movie.
“Want to start over?” Rocky asks Adonis. “Be reborn? If you’re going to go back to hell [his fight with Viktor], you might as well get used to it.”
Hell? Maybe it’s not quite that hot. But the Sinai? Maybe.
Creed II isn’t particularly preachy, but it has all the telltale signs of a spiritual journey—one plucked straight from the Bible, actually. A trip from captivity and into the promised land. It’s a narrative followed by lots of sports movies, in fact, and especially movies in the Rocky series. Consider the following points:
The Captivity. In Exodus, the Hebrews have been dealing with a rather unsatisfying living situation for a while now. They’re slaves in Egypt and have been for the longest time, working for Pharaoh under some pretty brutal conditions.
The Rescuer. In Egypt, Moses steps in. He was once kind of a big deal. He was once a prince of Egypt: He knows the court, the country’s biggest players and, most importantly, his people’s plight. Let my people go, he tells Pharaoh. And eventually—after a few plagues here and there—the Pharaoh does just that.
Practically every sports movie I can think of has a sage of some sort—a man or woman who shows the youngster there’s a way out of his or her predicament. Rocky fills that role here, but he also slides into Moses’ sandals better than many. As a former world boxing champ himself, he knows what it’s like to be on top, and what it takes to stay there. As Adonis’ closest advisor, and perhaps closest friend, Rocky understands his misery. Rocky understands how to get out of this metaphorical Egypt, but the only way through is …