WARNING: Spoilers for Creed II ahead.
Creed 2's ending is one of the most emotional in the Rocky series. The film is, obviously, a sequel to 2015's Creed, but is also quasi-sequel/remake of 1985's Rocky IV and, in some ways, 2006's Rocky Balboa. And it rises to that challenge, providing the best of what the Rocky franchise can offer and an unexpected evolution of both title characters.
Picking up with Adonis Creed as a superstar boxer, Creed 2 wastes no time in seeing him win the Heavyweight Champion of the World title. The real challenge of the movie is Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago who killed Apollo Creed in the ring and was later bested by Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV. Creed almost loses his title match with the human tank, saved only by Drago's disqualification, but after a period of self-doubt comes back for a revenge fight.
But far more than the formulaic boxing picture with sprinklings of revenge that its plot synopsis would suggest, Creed 2 is a movie all about fathers, sons, justice and, above all, legacy. Continuing many complex themes from the previous seven films in the series while standing firmly on its own, here's what happens in Creed 2's ending, what the big reveals mean, and what could be next for the franchise.
How Adonis Creed Beats Viktor Drago (And What It Means)
The fight between Adonis Creed and Viktor Drago at the end of Creed 2 is a truly brutal one, mentally and physically. The plan for Creed is to win the fight by knock-down - punching the opponent to the floor and them failing to get back up after ten seconds - whereas Drago, while happy with a knockdown, is clearly going for a full-on knockout. Adonis comes out the gates strong, but is immediately forced back by Viktor in the second round. Over the course of the fight, power moves back and forth; Adonis is knocked down multiple times, brought back up by Bianca's cheers, and Drago targets his opponent's ribs, trying to cripple him like in their previous bout.
Eventually, though, Creed gets the upper hand, knocking Drago down repeatedly and, once he's up, wailing on him. At this point, Ivan Drago steps in and throws in the towel, forfeiting the match. Creed wins, retaining his title, although by this point that was already likely; whether based on points or another knock-down, Viktor Drago was pretty much spent and sure to be defeated. The towel was more to stop him being hurt any further.
This is important for the Dragos (as we'll explore shortly) and sees Adonis earn an unequivocal moral victory, but it's most important for how it mirrors Rocky IV. In the deadly exhibition match between Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago, Rocky didn't throw in the towel, conflicted between his care for Apollo and the fighter's repeated insistence to keep the match going. And so while Rocky is blamed for not stopping the fight - something mentioned by Adonis and in news coverage in Creed 2 - it's a more internalized debate over what was, in the moment, deemed best for Apollo: his life or his ego. Rocky's inaction proved fatal and tortured him to fight Drago himself in Rocky IV, but is also what made him refuse to train Adonis in Creed 2. Having the sequel's final fight end in a mirror of what came before highlights how far all the key players have come.
Ivan & Viktor Drago Accept Defeat
In Rocky IV, Ivan Drago is a caricature. He's an unstoppable force and an immovable object, recording impossible strength levels and pummelling the former Heavyweight Champion to death. Rocky only beats him by completely realigning his approach, building a back-to-basics training routine and aiming to slowly wear the Russian down. The key to the final fight in Rocky IV was getting Drago to shed his patriotism, losing his composure and be reduced to just a man.
That's where Creed 2 picks up; the Ivan Drago presented here is disgraced and living an impoverished life. He aims to regain that respect through his son, turning him into an angrier version of his younger self. Crucially, both generations are powered by the departure of Ludmilla Drago, Ivan's ex-wife, after his loss; they believe that, if they win the Heavyweight title, they'll also get her back. Regaining her affection is as much the prize as it is going for Creed.
And, at first, it seems to work; she attends a dinner celebrating Viktor's first match against Adonis and takes a front-row seat at the rematch. However, the moment it becomes apparent that the Dragos may not win - not definitely, but stand a small chance of being disgraced - she immediately leaves. In losing what the Dragos were fighting for, the match, the belt and Creed suddenly don't matter; Viktor loses his nerve and Ivan finally throws in the towel. Without anything to hide behind, Drago realizes his son's humanity, and Viktor is mad for all of two seconds before he suddenly grasps the act of love his father just made.
Just as Creed made Apollo's ostentatious death serious, Creed 2 completely reframes his cartoon killer. The climax of Adonis Creed's journey hinges on the humanity of both villains and them accepting that winning isn't as important as each other. This is underscored by their last scene; the duo are back in Ukraine training, only this time Ivan is running alongside his son, rather than trying to break him.
- Creed 2 (2018) release date: Nov 21, 2018