Creed Makes Ivan Drago A Fully-Rounded Character
The pulses of Rocky 4 fans can't help but quicken early in Creed 2 when Ivan and Viktor Drago arrive in Philadelphia and gaze upon the famed statue of Rocky Balboa outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For Ivan, who remains damaged and has never been the same since Rocky 4, this is a bittersweet moment: it's his first time back in the United States in 33 years and a date with destiny with his old rival. But as much as Ivan hated Rocky, he hated what Russia did to him and Viktor because of his loss to Rocky even more.
In Rocky 4, Ivan Drago was a silent, towering monster whose most famous line was telling Rocky, "I must break you." But in Creed 2, Ivan not only speaks loads but he unleashes three decades of pain and regret. When he lost to Balboa, Ivan was hated in Russia and had to raise Viktor alone in poverty. His wife, Ludmilla, left them both and she later abandons them again when Viktor loses to Adonis. But in Viktor, Ivan Drago has a chance at redemption and, after they crushed Adonis, Ivan gets to indulge in the admiration he has always longed for. The elder Drago basked in adulation at a State Dinner with the Russian Ambassador, even as Viktor questioned why his father craved the respect of people who turned their backs on them both for so long. It turns out Viktor was right as father and son are rejected once again after Viktor loses; they went back to square one, but at least they're together.
The pivotal act that now defines Ivan is when he threw in the towel to save Viktor; he placed his love of his son above his own desires for adulation from his country. Ivan, who once killed Apollo Creed without remorse, saved his own son, completing his character arc from Rocky 4. Knowing exactly what Viktor's failure and his own sacrifice mean, Ivan proved he is, above all, a loving father who recognizes Viktor is the one truly important thing in his life. Because of all of this, Ivan Drago emerges as Creed 2's most fascinating character, with Dolph Lundgren rising to the occasion by delivering a complex and riveting performance.
Creed 2 Redeems Rocky 4 By Taking It Seriously
After seeing Creed 2, fans can now go back and see Rocky 4 in a different light. Stallone's film is still replete with montages as if it's a 90-minute MTV music video; it still has Paulie (Burt Young) awkwardly flirting with a robot, and it still plays with all of the depth and complexity of a Saturday morning cartoon. But Creed 2 also knows that Rocky 4 is a monumental chapter in the Rocky saga due to Apollo's death and Rocky's own career shortened after the beating he endured from Drago - as Rocky tried to explain to Adonis, "[Ivan] broke things in me that ain't never been fixed." Heroically, Creed 2 fixed what was always wrong with Rocky 4.
Thanks to Creed 2, Apollo's death now as far deeper meaning than a great fighter succumbing to his own hubris, which forced Rocky to avenge him. Apollo's ghost is finally laid to rest in Creed 2, and the heartwarming moment where Adonis brings his baby daughter Amara to Apollo's grave assures that the Creed name will continue on - but, hopefully, without Amara making the same mistakes her father and grandfather made. For Rocky, coming face-to-face with Ivan once again dredged up haunting old memories but helped him realize he needed to reconnect with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) and his grandson Logan in the time he has left. Viktor's failure echoed his father's but Ivan is by his side to help him recover in the way no one did for him when he was defeated in Christmas 1985.
The Rocky/Creed franchise has evolved into a generational tale of fighters and mentors, fathers and sons, and setting old mistakes right. By holding up a mirror to Rocky 4 and providing definitive conclusions to its narrative threads, Creed 2 elevated the preceding film, giving Rocky 4 rich, new dimensions, and a deeper soul, while still setting fans' hearts on fire.