"Creed II" doesn't pack the same punch, either emotionally or in the ring, but like with the previous seven "Rocky" films, old fans will still cheer at the end of this sequel.
Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone's best character – "Rocky" on top of "Rambo" every day of the year – back here, but the focus is on Adonis Creed, the son of the early series champion Apollo Creed.
You remember him: a brilliant battle with Rocky before taking the ring in 1985 "Rocky IV" against Ivan Drago, a half-human / half Russian monster whose defeat from Creed killed him in the ring.
Rocky entered the ring at the end of the film and won that day, but as 2015 "Creed" showed us, Creed's son was still haunted by the ghosts – which became the setting for this second film, co-written by Stallone.
Initially, we saw Adonis conquering the enemy and winning the heavyweight title, just like his father, but the young man had a feeling of emptyness about it without father there to be a witness.
But this idea has always been secondary to director Stephen Caple Jr. when Stallone's script takes out red meat: There is a rising heavyweight boxer in Russia named Viktor Drago, the son of the man who killed the champion's father, and he calls Creed.
If you think you know how the rest of the film is playing, well, you might be right.
There is an argument between the young man and his coach, Rocky.
There are training montages but no punching meat.
We have Dolph Lundgren as Ivan gives the threat of nostalgia "My son will destroy your boy".
What we don't have is the kind of character development we have in "Creed," which is the best "Rocky" film since the first film and one of the best films of 2015.
But it was written and directed by Ryan Coogler (he's an executive producer here), who wrote and directed "Black Panther" and made it one of the best films of 2018.
He did a great job building a backstory for Adonis and introducing the romance to Adonis with Bianca musician Tessa Thompson, and including Phylicia Rashad as Apollo's widow who had come to love Adonis, even though he was not his mother.
Adonis as unwanted, confused and hungry in the film was better than Adonis here as a one-note champion obsessed with revenge, but Michael B. Jordan did his best to make characters more complex.
And that while looking at each part: Jordan's body is KO, torn and elegant at the same time, with the speed of your hands and footwork that "you can't hit what you can't see" is extraordinary.
"Creed II" does not introduce new characters, which makes me think this series might be in the rocking legs of a box that tries to advance because it is too attached to history.
The film is too easy to settle to pursue the ghost of the past, a common theme in the films "Do it for Mick" or "Do it for Adrian" narration in the past.
It's interesting how other people's stories are haunted by the past, too, like Rocky as a father figure for Adonis, but who loses contact with his own son, or like Bianca who is pregnant, worried that her progressive hearing loss might be passed on to their baby.
That even happened with Ivan Drago, with what happened after a fight from 30 years ago that we learned here with a big surprise.
It was a disappointment that none of the three were resolved in a truly satisfying manner, but that would not stop fans at a certain age because of inflating our breasts at the end of the film.
At the final bell, "Creed 2" is still a winner for fans.
But any installments in the future require the balance Coogler provides from injections of youth to keep the current generation cheering on the champions.