In 2015, almost 40 years after a young actor by the name of Sylvester Stallone introduced the world to the “Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa, the one-time biggest movie star on the planet returned to the role that saw him win his first Oscar nomination.

He almost made up for his failure to garner a nomination in 1977, after being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2017 for his performance in Creed. Before the success of Creed, movie fans could be forgiven for drawing parallels between the actor and the retired fictional champion that turned him into a superstar. The man who bought us hit action movies such as First Blood, Cobra, and Demolition Man, was clearly past his prime and it seemed that he was fading into obscurity as a former A-lister searching for any kind of recognition. The fact is that the kind of movies he was making in the ‘80s don’t have the significance in the industry that they once did. While The Expendables movies have made a ton of money, it took cramming them full of ‘80s actions stars to achieve it, and it remains a rarity.

These days we’re more likely to see comic book movies or reboots of classic TV shows. Today’s leading actors – such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling – are also more about sensitivity and charm.

A renewed sense of award.

Another man who could fit into that mould is Michael B. Jordan. Many felt that Jordan, who played the titular role in Creed, should have been recognised by the Academy Awards for his performance. In fact, Jordan has two chances to be nominated in 2018 after winning high praise for his role in Black Panther. He has some stiff competition, however, from the likes of Bradley Cooper for A Star Is BornBetsson currently has him as favourite to win at 1.60.

Another question on the lips of those looking ahead to award season is whether Stallone will finally get his Oscar. While he has, at times, taken on more serious roles in a bid to win more credibility from the industry, it’s been the southpaw from Philadelphia that has continued to be his saving grace. Not only did Creed gross over $100 million at the domestic box office, his performance in Creed won him a Golden Globe, along with a Best Supporting Actor award from the National Board of Review. Stallone was nominated in the same category at the Oscars, losing out to Mark Rylance for his role in Bridge of Spies.

Creed II or Son of Drago?

Creed II is not just the second Creed movie but the eighth Rocky outing in a series that many had argued had run its course in the ‘80s. It would be likely, at this juncture, that film fans are more excited by the idea of a second Creed flick than an eighth Rocky, with character dramas starring black actors being something of a rarity. Old-time Rocky fans are billing it as a sequel to Rocky IV due to Dolph Lundgren reprising his role as Ivan Drago, the man responsible for killing the original Creed (Adonis' father, Apollo – played by Carl Weathers in IV) in the ring all those years ago. Now Adonis is ready to avenge his father’s death by taking on Drago’s son, Viktor, played by Florian Munteanu.

One of the smartest things about Creed was that it took the events of Rocky IV, which many believe to be the most absurd of the series, and translated them into background material for a serious drama.

Beyond expectations

There weren’t many people who were expecting much from Creed when it was first announced, or even upon release. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Director Ryan Coogler had only directed a single indie movie in Fruitvale Station, although the success of Creed did inspire Marvel to entrust him with the keys to Black Panther. While he's been assuming the role of executive producer, Coogler was too busy working on the MCU hit to work on Creed II, so this time around directing duties were given to relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr.

Creed II also stars Tess Thompson as the love interest, Phylicia Rashad as Adonis’ mother Marry Anne, and Wood Harris as Tony Burton (the son of former Apollo Creed and Rocky trainer Duke).

Creed II will be released in U.S. cinema on November 21.