Ivan Drago may've tried to break Rocky Balboa back in Rocky IV but, according to Dolph Lundgren, the ex-boxer is pretty broken himself in Creed II. The character, much like Rocky IV, is as iconic as he is mocked for his campy qualities, being the Russian villain in a Rocky movie that embodies Cold War-era American jingoism as much as any other title from the 1980s. Drago's return in Creed sequel has been a point of concern for many fans since it was first announced, given how much more thoughtful and self-reflective the Creed franchise is compared to the Rocky sequel that Drago hales from.
However, Creed II's version of Drago is a far cry from the robotic fighter that killed Apollo Creed in the ring without blinking an eye, back in 1985. The character has spent the past thirty three years - following his defeat in the ring at Rocky's hands - training his son Viktor (heavyweight fighter Florian Munteanu) in the art of boxing, in an attempt to sculpt him into a champion who could restore the Drago name to its former glory. Such a storyline fits with the Creed movies' overarching theme of sons who are haunted by their fathers (more literally, in Viktor's case) and was the reason why Lundegren says he decided to reprise his role as Ivan, after he nearly passed on Creed II.
In an interview for Empire Magazine's December issue, Lundgren spoke more about Ivan in Creed II and what drew him back to the role. The outlet has further unveiled an exclusive photo from the film that shows the Drago father and son in the ring mid-match. Check out the image below, then read on for Lundgren's quotes.
“Basically, my character has been in a living hell since ’85 and lost everything. The script reintroduces him as a pretty damaged character, emotionally, and somebody who’s suffered a lot physically from a hard life. I can identify with that quite easily. The physical part [and] the emotional part.
“It’s become an iconic character. People quote him and have T-shirts. I didn’t want to mess with that image. I didn’t see a way, up until now, that it would work. But obviously now when I’m old enough, suddenly I work as a parent. The father-son concept was quite good because I had a violent relationship with my dad [...] many men do and end up in contact sports.”
The issue of toxic masculinity (which Lundgren nods to here) is one that seems to factor heavily into the Creed sequel, with the Creed II trailers even showing Rocky doing his very best to convince Apollo's son, Adonis Johnson, to turn down Viktor's challenge for a match, telling him that his own attempt to avenge Apollo's death by fighting Ivan wasn't worth it. Much like the first Creed succeeded in bringing greater emotional weight to Apollo's death, there seems to be a real chance that Creed II will lend additional depth to the events of Rocky IV by re-examining them and their fallout, from the vantage point of the present-day. In the event that happens, it will only further solidify the Creed franchise as being a worthwhile continuation of and expansion upon the Rocky films that came before them.
That said: it might be best to pass on bringing Clubber Lang's son in to battle Adonis in Creed III, lest these movies start to become too formulaic for their own good.
- Creed 2 (2018) release date: Nov 21, 2018