Unfortunately, the new Hellboy is noise and gore signifying nothing


There’s a scene about midway through Hellboy in which a giant sword goes through a monster’s head, virtually splitting it in half, unleashing a reservoir of blood, and showing some of the blood and brains underneath the skull. While taking in that moment, I thought to myself, “I think that’s what watching this movie feels like.”

I was rooting for the 2019 reboot of Hellboy. It was going to be too easy to dismiss this movie and say Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman did it better — twice — without even seeing this new version. But the wave of early reviews seemed to confirm what so many feared when this project was announced. Was there really any point to reviving Hellboy if there wasn’t anything new to offer?

Part of the sales pitch for this new Hellboy, directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour, is that the movie would be based more closely on the source comic books by Mike Mignola (although Del Toro’s 2004 film had elements from the comics as well) and that will always make fans’ horns point a bit higher. Mignola himself seemed to endorse that narrative, which implied that Del Toro took his movies in a slightly different direction from the comic books.

Read the full review here

Us will creep you out and is packed with ideas, but lacks satisfying scares


Whether or not you consider Us a scary movie depends on your personal preferences. If “scary” means making you jump in your seat, shielding yourself with the person sitting next to you, or screaming out loud, you might be disappointed with Jordan Peele’s latest film.

But Us is most certainly creepy, with imagery that might live inside your head for a while and revisit when you close your eyes. The broken mirror doubles that a family suddenly encounters are chilling, a credit to make-up and costuming as well some fantastic acting — both in a physical and psychological sense — from the cast.

Following Get Out, Peele has made another thinking person’s horror film. No, Us probably won’t resonate the way his first effort did. And the story’s resolution doesn’t feel as satisfying. That might compel some fans and critics to use terms like “sophomore slump” in critiquing this movie. But Peele deserves credit for not repeating himself here, something that surely would’ve been easy to do.

Read the full review here

The rebooted Star Trek movie series might be done, folks


If you’re a fan of the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise (called the “Kelvin” timeline by many Trekkers because of what happened in the 2009 Star Trek film), it appears increasingly likely that we’re not going to see that particular Enterprise crew on screen anymore.

As first reported by Deadline, director SJ Clarkson is going to direct the pilot episode for HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel. According to reporter Nellie Andreeva, Clarkson got the gig because “she recently became available” when the untitled Star Trek 4 was shelved. If there’s no film in development, she didn’t have a project to direct. Clarkson had been hired for the gig back in April, set to become the first female director for the Trek franchise.

But production on Star Trek 4 has been difficult, perhaps even impossible with both Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth walking away when producers reportedly wanted to rework existing contracts. Paramount Pictures wanted to keep costs down after the previous Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond, grossed only $344 million ($160 million domestically) against a $185 million budget.

Though two of the three Star Trek films have been good (personally, I prefer the first of them) and the cast is stocked with popular stars like Pine, Zoe Saldana and Karl Urban, audiences have never really responded to them as Paramount hoped.

The 2009 Star Trek earned $385 million worldwide and was loved by critics. Star Trek Into Darkness was a bad misstep (and probably took too long to be made, four years later), but still earned $467 million and earned decent reviews. (J.J. Abrams irritated many fans by trying to deny that iconic Trek villain Khan was part of the story when he obviously was.) Star Trek Beyond drew strong reviews and many Trekkers thought it was the best of the three films because it was most like an episode of the original TV series. But it wasn’t the blockbuster hit that Paramount wanted.

Bringing in Hemsworth to reprise his role as James T. Kirk’s father in a time-travel adventure might have given Star Trek 4 a boost. He’s become a huge star since his brief appearance in the series’ first film, going on to play Thor for Marvel and headline several other movies, including the upcoming Men in Black International. Reportedly, he had a deal in place — one which producers tried to renegotiate.

Pine also had a deal in place and his increased profile from playing Captain Kirk has made him a reliable star, if not a marquee headliner. He’s been impressive with supporting turns in Wonder Woman and A Wrinkle in Time (and was a surprise part of the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse cast), and is the lead in the upcoming TNT miniseries I Am the Night.

Maybe negotiations would’ve eventually worked out, but beginning production on a Star Trek film without its Captain Kirks — James and George — presumably created a considerable obstacle. The cast also suffered a tragic blow with the 2016 death of Anton Yelchin, who played Officer Chekov. Perhaps a chunk of filming could have been done with the remaining players — including Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Simon Pegg, who are recognizable faces — but the studio apparently decided it was better to shelve Star Trek for now.

There’s also the possibility that the issues with Pine and Hemsworth made it easier for Paramount to spike Star Trek 4 and focus instead on Quentin Tarantino’s proposed Trek movie, if that project is ever actually being made. The current cast believes that Tarantino’s movie would be made with them (putting together a new cast would be quite an undertaking for what is probably a one-off venture). Perhaps it’s easier for the studio to wait until everyone’s schedule opens up some more and concentrate on a movie that is certain to draw more attention.

If this is it for the rebooted Star Trek series, that feels like a wasted opportunity. Abrams and crew put together an excellent young cast, and there were so many Trek stories — either adaptations or originals — that could’ve been told. But that cast, improved digital effects and more exciting action still couldn’t pull in audiences. Maybe Star Trek fans like their Starfleet adventures more on TV than the big screen.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is getting a sequel and 'Spider-Women' spinoff


Sony is opening the door to its Spider-Verse with the upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. If you saw Venom and stayed through the credits, you know that the studio is establishing that there’s a whole bunch of other Spider-Man universes besides the one we’re currently seeing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker and our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is as good as the trailers make it look, audiences are going to have no trouble buying into the notion that multiple Spider-Men or spider-powered superheroes exist across multiple dimensions and timelines. People will want to see more Miles Morales. And Sony is banking that we’ll also want to see more Spider-Gwen (Gwen Stacy) and several other female Spider-heroes.

According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, Sony Pictures Animation is developing both a sequel to Spider-Verse and a female-centric spin-off. This news indicates that Sony is expecting big things from its animated Spider-Man film, which is still two weeks away from hitting theaters on Dec. 14.

The Spider-Verse sequel will continue the story of what figures to be an extremely popular character in the teenage, black and Latino Miles Morales. That project will be written by David Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984, Zombieland 2) and directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, whom many fans will know from his work on Justice League Unlimited (in addition to several DC animated shorts), The Legend of Korra and Voltron.

However, the “Spider-Women” film might be the far more interesting initiative. Spider-Gwen and Peni Parker — an anime-type version who wears a giant armored suit called SP//dr — will both be introduced in Spider-Verse, so it’s reasonable to assume both characters will be prominent parts of this spin-off. (Spider-Gwen has also been on the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.)

But which other Spider-Women could join them in the story is the question that makes this movie most intriguing.

Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, seems like a natural addition to the cast. Not only would Drew possibly attract some longtime comic book fans who remember her adventures from the late-1970s, her affiliation with the Brian Michael Bendis edition of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. counterpart S.W.O.R.D., and a 2016 limited series in which she got a redesigned, modern costume.

Drew even had her own cartoon series in 1979:

There’s also another version of Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter, who was introduced in the 1984 Secret Wars miniseries and was eventually a member of the Avengers. Somehow, she was part of the ensemble in the 1994 Iron Man animated series.

Other “Spider Women” who could appear in this movie include:

  • Silk, a Korean-American named Cindy Moon, a Korean-American woman who is bitten by the same radioactive spider that attacked Peter Parker. Earlier this year, news broke that Sony was developing a live-action movie for the character. Moon has been in both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War as Parker’s classmate, but it’s not known if actress Tiffany Espensen would be cast in the role.

  • Spider-Girl, the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson who was featured in several Marvel Comics titles during the early 2000s. Another character, Anya Corazon (first known as Araña), took the Spider-Girl name in 2010.

  • Madame Web, a clairvoyant who needs a mechanical web-like life support system to survive. (Julia Carpenter became a new version of Madame Web in the comic books.)

So there are plenty of paths this project could take. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse demonstrates that Sony is willing to take advantage of the rich, deep mythology created in decades of Marvel Comics. That includes live-action films featuring Spider-villains Morbius the Living Vampire (to be played by Jared Leto), along with Silver Sable and Black Cat (though that movie is currently stalled).

The “Spider-Women” film will be directed by Lauren Montgomery, who has plenty of animated superhero bonafides from helming Superman/Batman: Apocalypse and Batman: Year One. She’ll work from a script written by Bek Smith (Zoo).

Bohemian Rhapsody gets it right with Queen's music, not so much with Freddie Mercury


If you’re a fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, you will very likely enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie is a celebration of the band and its music. You’ll be reminded of just how much you loved songs like “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Radio Ga Ga,” along with deeper cuts such as “Love of My Life.”

Whether or not the film is a fitting tribute to Mercury will depend on your view. Director Bryan Singer (who was fired from the production yet is still credited) and writer Anthony McCarten take a safe approach to the singer’s personal life, largely settling for allusions to Mercury’s homosexuality, drug use and partying. Much like Mercury did publicly, the movie keeps that away from the audience.

However, Bohemian Rhapsody does a fine job of portraying Freddie Mercury, the rock star. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) has all of the legendary frontman’s stage moves and swagger down. Mercury commanded the stage, punching, gyrating, and thrusting with the beats from bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. The rest of Queen effectively faded into the background because the eye was always drawn to Mercury’s energy and charisma.

— Read the full review here —

Does a Flash Gordon movie have new life with Overlord director Julius Avery?


We’re just over a week away from Overlord hitting theaters. But director Julius Avery apparently did impressive enough work for Fox to give him one of its renowned, yet long-stalled, intellectual properties.

As reported by multiple outlets, Avery has been tapped by Paramount to direct Flash Gordon, a project that has had numerous stops and starts with a variety of filmmakers. The property is perhaps best known as a campy 1980 movie (with an outstanding Queen theme song) and a comic strip that ran from 1934 to 2003.

The premise of the Flash Gordon story is Earth being endangered by a collision course with the planet Mongo. Gordon is a famous athlete (in the 1980 film, he was the quarterback for the New York Jets) kidnapped by a scientist who flies a rocket ship to Mongo hoping to save the Earth. Gordon eventually becomes involved with a rebellion set on overthrowing Mongo’s dictator, Ming the Merciless.

Prior to Avery taking over, Flash Gordon was reportedly in the hands of Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn has been attached to big sci-fi blockbusters like Thor and X-Men: Days of Future Past previously, and he also made a epic sort of fantasy with 2007’s Stardust. (Additionally, he was rumored to be a favorite to direct the Man of Steel sequel that won’t be happening anymore.) He would’ve been a strong choice for a Flash Gordon movie.

That doesn’t mean Avery isn’t a good pick, however. He has action movie bonafides and is reportedly a big fan of the comic books, which inspired his pitch. Overlord is generating some strong buzz (currently boasting an 89 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes before the top critics get their crack at it) as a sci-fi/horror take on a World War II story. The Nov. 9 release follows a pair of soldiers tasked with destroying a Nazi outpost, only to discover secret experiments that are creating zombie-like creatures.

(Avery’s first film, Son of a Gun, a crime thriller starring Titans’ Brenton Thwaites and Ewan McGregor is currently available on Netflix.)

Will people be interested in a Flash Gordon movie? The original 1930s serials inspired Star Wars, man! George Lucas made Star Wars because he couldn’t get the rights to Flash Gordon (which were too expensive). That has to be worth something, right?

Flash Gordon is still an established brand name that has spawned several cartoons, comic books and TV shows, and could attract some nostalgia (such as Seth McFarlane’s in Ted), current audiences may have never heard of the character. But a blockbuster sci-fi movie taking place on another planet should intrigue plenty of viewers if it looks cool and has a compelling story.

The current Star Wars movie series and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise poses some serious competition for the outer space sci-fi audience. But maybe, just maybe, Flash Gordon can step into the void left by Marvel putting the production of Guardians Vol. 3 on indefinite hold until the studio finds a replacement for director James Gunn. Might as well aim high.

New Halloween movie is rightful sequel to John Carpenter's original 1978 horror classic


With the abundance of revivals and reboots in movies and TV, another Halloween movie might not seem like something worth our attention. Horror movies, especially, have diluted celebrated brands by making new versions of classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

But maybe no horror brand has been more watered down and misguided over the past 40 years than the Halloween franchise. Nine sequels (two of which were reboots) have been made since the original 1978 film, each of them moving further away from John Carpenter’s original vision. (To be fair, however, Carpenters vision in 1978 may not have been more than to make a scary slasher movie.)

The smart move by director David Gordon Green (who co-wrote the film with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) was to act like those previous nine films never happened. (There’s even a line that dismisses one of the sillier developments revealed in 1981’s Halloween II.) This 2018 edition of Halloween is a direct (albeit 40 years later) sequel to the original film, returning to the story and its two primary characters after four decades have passed.

-- Read the full review here --

Aquaman’s extended New York Comic Con trailer looks bold and ambitious: 7 takeaways


With just under three months until Aquaman’s Dec. 21 release, DC Films and Warner Brothers capitalized on maybe their last chance to really appeal to the geek crowd with an extended trailer that shows the scope and ambition of the movie.

Aquaman pretty much had the movie spotlight to itself at this weekend’s New York Comic Con. Most of the other trailers were from TV shows like Daredevil, Star Trek: Discovery, Good Omens and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. But the sheer size of the trailer also likely helped DC’s undersea blockbuster stand out.

The five-minute preview includes a variety of influences from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Clash of the Titans, Lord of the Rings, disaster movies like Deep Impact, and maybe even some good old-fashioned fables in which a lighthouse keeper falls in love with a princess (or queen?) from the sea. And there’s just a whole bunch of action, which looks — to use what appears to be Arthur Curry’s favorite word — badass!

As we try to do every time we write about a trailer, let’s list some takeaways from a rather impressive extended look at Aquaman.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard have chemistry


We don’t know if Arthur Curry and Mera fall in love during this movie, but they’re destined to be together in the comic books. So it’s important for Momoa and Heard to create some sparks between each other and create some of that “Will they or won’t they?” energy.

Personally, I like the idea of Aquaman being kind of a big, dumb lunk who jumps into everything head-first and eventually endears himself to Mera — who knows he’s meant for greater things — with his quippy charm.

Momoa appears to be great with the one-liners that the script gives him, while Heard has some sharp burns (“You do your best thinking when you’re not thinking at all”) that keep the banter crackling.

Which Dolph Lundgren will be more fearsome this fall?


This trailer provides our first look at Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus. According to reports, Nereus is Mera’s father — rather than her betrothed husband-to-be, as in the comics — but is he an ally to the story’s big baddie, Orin (Patrick Wilson), or is he an adversary to the aspiring conquerer of the seven seas?

This is the second appearance Lundgren has made in a big-time trailer during the past couple of weeks, following our first glimpse at his reprisal of the Ivan Drago role in the Creed 2 preview. We know he’s a bad guy as his offspring’s trainer and cornerman when Viktor Drago and Adonis Creed face off in the ring. Rocky Balboa also has a great line while referring to him, saying “He broke things in me that ain’t never been fixed.”

The guess here is that Lundgren will actually have a more substantial role in Aquaman, but more people will remember him in Creed 2 because of the history between Drago and Rocky.

Black Manta looks badass!


Hopefully, Aquaman doesn’t fall into the trap of cramming too many villains into the story, which we’ve seen in movies like Spider-Man 3, Green Lantern and Batman v Superman. Not only does that take focus away from some fine characters, but it inevitably ends up in some memorable villains being pushed aside or used up in a one-and-done plotline.

Whether or not Black Manta is Aquaman’s greatest adversary is open to argument. He probably hasn’t been portrayed as such in the comic books, but many fans (including me) think of the two as great arch-rivals from them being on opposite sides of the Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon with the Legion of Doom.

Manta has always had one of the coolest-looking costumes in comics, so it’s reassuring to see the armor worn by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II look extremely imposing. Let’s hope Manta isn’t a one-and-done villain like Hector Hammond or Sandman and we’ll see him in either future Aquaman sequels or DC superhero films.

Will Aquaman juggle Ocean Master and Black Manta as well as The Dark Knight handled the Joker and Two-Face? (Note what happened to Two-Face in that story, however.)

Action by land and sea


Will Aquaman’s most memorable scene take place on land, rather than in the deep sea? The centerpiece of this five-minute trailer is a rooftop chase scene in which Mera is being pursued by Black Manta’s henchmen (Atlantean soldiers?) while Manta takes on Aquaman.

The sequence recalls Captain America chasing Bucky in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the Stormtrooper-like assailants running through buildings and residences as they go after Mera. Mera sprinting across the rooftops is also reminiscent of Daniel Craig’s James Bond running along Mexico City ledges in Spectre.

This isn’t to say that the chase looks derivative. Hell, it looks really fun and could be unlike anything we’ve seen on screen before. Director James Wan is the guy who had a car jump from one skyscraper to another in Furious 7, and he could be topping himself here.

Nicole Kidman, action hero


Not much else to say here, other than it’s cool to see Kidman taking out a bunch of attackers with her trident. Pleasantly unexpected, much like watching Colin Firth as a lethal fighter in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Maybe this establishes that Atlantean women like Mera are true warriors and not to be messed with in a fight.

It would also be fun if Kidman’s character, Atlanna, taking on the bad guys relegates Aquaman’s father, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) to the proverbial damsel-in-distress who needs to be protected. Role reversal!

Seafood’s revenge


Giant crabs? It’s probably safe to guess that Red Lobster and Joe’s Crab Shack won’t be running any sort of promotional tie-in with Aquaman.

DC’s protector of the seven seas is almost certainly going to communicate with aquatic life (or “talk to fish,” as Bruce Wayne/Batman put it in Justice League) during the story. Wouldn’t it be a disappointment if he didn’t?

But maybe it doesn’t even matter since some of those undersea creatures are spectacularly imposing — such as the aforementioned enormous crustacean, whatever the hell that lizard-looking thing rising out of the water is, or an oversized piranha — along with sea horses and sharks facing off in battle. (Can we call it a battlefield when it’s underwater?)

Will Aquaman wipe out a legion of pescatarians over the holiday season?

The gold and green is on, baby!


Here’s the money shot from the Aquaman trailer, the image that virtually every film and geek site in existence screen-capped and published on Friday.

Jason Momoa’s shirtless, tattooed aquatic brawler from Justice League was just the first look for the character. Eventually, Arthur Curry dons the famous (Can we call it iconic?) gold and green costume from the comic books and cartoons. (Outrageous!) Appropriately, the suit has been upgraded to armor rather than a sort of body suit.

This seems like kind of a spoiler. Does Aquaman don the suit at the end of the film in a signature shot that leads to the credits? Or does he gear up for the movie’s climactic battle? Anyway, despite Momoa not looking exactly like the comic book or animated Aquaman, the traditional Aquaman look suits him well.

Aquaman swims into theaters on Dec. 21.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix pushed back again, days after first trailer touts Feb. 14 release


How much regard does Fox really have for Dark Phoenix (likely to be the studio’s final X-Men film before Marvel takes over)? Less than two days after debuting the movie’s first trailer, the release date has been pushed back for the film.

Yes, really. After advertising a Feb. 14, 2019 release, Fox announced on Friday that Dark Phoenix is being moved to June 7. Just like that.

When I first saw film reporter Jeff Sneider tweet the following, I honestly thought it had to be a joke:

Sneider is a reliable, veteran reporter who has covered Hollywood for years, so there was no reason not to believe him. His reputation is at stake with something like this. However, after he went on a rant last week that many saw as unhinged, it briefly occurred to me that maybe Sneider was making a joke. But there was nothing among the surrounding tweets on his timeline to indicate that he was mocking anything (or anyone).

In fact, the Dark Phoenix news was one of a handful of dominoes that fell on the Fox movie slate. First, an “untitled Deadpool movie” is being released on Dec. 21. That bumps Alita: Battle Angel to Feb. 14 and pushes the next X-Men film to that June 7 date. And that kicks another X-Men-related film, Gambit (a movie some doubt will ever be made, to a March 13, 2020 release.

There’s a whole lot to unpack there, stoking plenty of speculation. Does this mean Fox thinks more highly of Alita than Dark Phoenix? Probably, because that could be a future franchise for the studio if it’s successful while the X-Men will become part of the Marvel cinematic universe, thanks to the Disney-Fox merger.

As Forbes’ Scott Mendelson points out, this also gets Alita away from some potentially crushing competition in late December, such as Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bumblebee and the heavy Oscar contenders. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro notes that Alita and Dark Phoenix could have better openings in China with the new release dates, something that’s a huge factor in international box office these days.

Yet bumping Dark Phoenix a third time (it was originally supposed to open this November before Fox pushed it back for reshoots) doesn’t dispel the perception that the movie could be a mess.

What about Fox releasing another Deadpool movie this year? No, Ryan Reynolds and company didn’t whip together another original film five months after Deadpool 2 hit theaters. According to several reports, the “untitled Deadpool movie” will either be a PG-13 version of the film or Deadpool 2 with additional footage spliced in. Reynolds tweeting a picture of Deadpool reading a book to Fred Savage, a callback to The Princess Bride, may have hinted at such an approach.

Then there’s Gambit, seemingly the outcast of Fox’s X-Men movie universe. Once upon a time, this was a project that generated excitement with Channing Tatum attached to star as a hugely popular character among X-Men comic book fans. But the movie hasn’t been able to keep a director with Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski each dropping out of a troubled production.

Part of the problem with Gambit has been finding the right tone, especially after the success of Deadpool. Should this be a hard-R movie or have more comedic elements? It appears that Fox is leaning more in that comedy direction, with producer Simon Kinberg (also Dark Phoenix’s director) telling IGN that Gambit will be more of a romantic comedy. Likely anticipating fans shrieking with outrage, Kinberg insists he’s talking more about tone than overall approach.

Even with trying to keep an open mind, that sounds kind of awful. To be fair, the best superhero movies (i.e., Marvel movies) have plenty of comedic elements, even if the stories are ultimately serious. Maybe that fits the character of Gambit. Diehard fans will have to vouch for that. Personally, I’ve never been a fan and his popularity came during a time when I wasn’t reading many comic books. And we’re still talking about a movie that doesn’t have a director.

It’s too easy to dismiss anything Fox does with its Marvel properties and just presume they’re all better off going back to Marvel Studios. But it’s also understandable when Fox has only had recent success with Deadpool and badly handled the X-Men and Fantastic Four.

6 takeaways from the new Creed II trailer


With new looks at Mary Poppins, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Bumblebee, it’s been a good couple of weeks for movie trailers. Rumors say we may get X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Hellboy trailers in the next week or two, as well.

(Maybe I should restart the “This Week in Trailers” column I used to write for The Comeback).

Included in that assortment of previews is the latest trailer for Creed II, showing a pumped-up Michael B. Jordan ready to take on a piece of Rocky movie mythology.

My review of Creed from 2015

Do you feel like you’ve worked out enough today after watching that? Are you feeling kind of fat and lazy? (That might just be me.) Maybe you have an urge to watch Rocky IV again and relive Rocky vs. Ivan Drago?

The desert replaces Siberia


Will we get a training montage? Judging from the trailer, it’ll be more than that. We see several clips of Adonis training in the desert for his titanic bout, replacing the urban setting of Philadelphia.

For one thing, it’s an interesting contrast to the harsh, snowy mountain terrain of Russia where Rocky trained for his fight with Drago. But maybe there are some story reasons for the setting as well. Is Adonis trying to get away from everyone (notably Bianca and their child) to hone his focus? Is he trying to set himself apart from Rocky and chart his own path? Does the desert just look cooler on screen?

Whatever happened to Ivan Drago?


The offspring of Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago facing each other in the ring is the central conflict of Creed II and the big draw for making this sequel. Revenge is such a compelling storyline. But fans of the Rocky series likely also want to know what happened to Drago after losing the Cold War battle in Russia.

It’s easy to imagine that it didn’t go well for the fighter. Perhaps he was exiled to obscure military duty. Maybe the government disowned him entirely, embarrassed by his defeat. What sort of life did he have without the purpose of being the Soviet Union’s greatest champion, without the benefit of those state-of-the-art training facilities (and, since we’re talking about Russia, other performance-enhancing resources)?

An intriguing subplot would be the paths Rocky and Drago have taken during the past 30+ years. At the very least, we’ll get a staredown in the ring between the two fighters-turned-trainers. But hopefully, the script includes something a bit more for some dramatic satisfaction.

Don’t sideline Tessa Thompson


Tessa Thompson’s role as Bianca in Creed was arguably one of the breakout performances that’s helped her emerge as one of Hollywood’s top young actresses. She was far more than a love interest, portraying a fascinating character with her own career ambitions, dreams which were jeopardized by her increasing hearing loss.

Bianca’s relationship with Adonis has clearly progressed in Creed II, as she’s now the mother of their son. But let’s hope that her character isn’t relegated to being the woman at home worrying about what might happen to her partner. We know what Thompson is capable of after playing Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and Detroit in Sorry To Bother You. Give her enough to be a dramatic equal to Michael B. Jordan.

Does Rocky still have cancer?


One of the most compelling storylines of Creed was Rocky Balboa being diagnosed with cancer. The former champ who’s lost everyone he loved — most notably his wife, Adrian — is facing his own mortality.

The scene in which Rocky tells Adonis why he doesn’t want to fight and seek treatment was the shining moment of a performance that should’ve earned Sylvester Stallone an Academy Award. But he’s also inspired by Adonis’s ambition to fight Ricky Conlan and agrees to undergo chemotherapy while continuing to train the younger Creed.

Will Rocky’s cancer still be a part of the story here or will he have gone into remission? Screenwriter Cheo Hodari Coker (showrunner for Marvel’s Luke Cage) and director Steven Caple Jr. surely don’t want to focus too much on Rocky and take the focus away from the title character, but Rocky’s fate is a key story point.

Does Rocky have the movie’s best line?

“He broke things in me that ain’t never been fixed.” Yikes.

The sad third act — or maybe the epilogue — to the Rocky Balboa story is the toll that boxing (and the celebrity that came with it) took on his body and his life. Rocky’s line about Drago underlines that. It’s a warning and cautionary tale to his protege. Who has more to lose here?

“It ain’t worth it,” says Rocky. Will that theme be explored and expanded to Adonis Creed in this movie?

Plenty of workout porn


Of course, we’ll get a training montage! It’s what helps the Rocky movies live on long past their theatrical and home video releases. We have to see these boxers do crazy things to their bodies, like sprint up snowy mountaintops or lift horse wagons full of rocks — as part of their training regimens.

Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is no exception, not just whipping battle ropes, but whipping his entire body with them. Who knows what the benefits are — it’s probably great for the shoulders and core — but it sure looks cool. Will Men’s Health or Muscle & Fitness get a cover story on the Creed II workouts?

Creed II enters the ring (or hits theaters) on Nov. 21.