Ivan Drago wasn’t Rocky Balboa’s greatest foe; his name rhymes with Mr. C. But the villain of “Rocky IV” was the most dangerous. He was a steroidal Russian bruiser, out to embarrass the U.S. of A during the Reagan stretch of the Cold War. And since Russia’s back to being the bad guy — oh, for the days when “Burn After Reading” could make jokes about the very idea of Russia hacking our intel — the pugilist played by Dolph Lundgren might as well come back, too.
Sylvester Stallone took to Instagram — as the olds do these days — to confirm that Drago will be back in “Creed 2.” What that means is anyone’s guess. Stallone’s Italian Stallion is retired, and he almost died in the first “Creed.” We’re guessing Drago will be training his own Russkie to fight Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis. Or maybe not! Maybe he’ll swing by Philadelphia to hang with his old opponent and get cheesesteaks — although any real Philadelphian knows the real culinary treat is their outstanding pho. (Rocky and Ivan should try our fave Vietnamese joint.)
One word of pessimism: We’re not stoked that Stallone is writing and directing “Creed 2” himself. One thing that made “Creed” so special two years back is that he wasn’t one of the main creatives. It was the lovechild of “Fruitvale Station” filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who fashioned it not as a sevenquel to the beloved series but as a loose continuation/semi-reboot, which carried the torch from Stallone to a new generation. He fashioned “Creed” as its own entity. It didn’t look like the “Rocky”s or even feel like them, though it shared some of the same beats. It was gritty and tactile, cool and collected where the other “Rocky”s (“II” through “IV” plus “Rocky Balboa” directed by Stallone himself) were sentimental and emotional, you could even say manipulative.
Coogler’s off doing “Black Panther,” so it’s safe to assume he’s re-wrangling the series, making it more like his own directorial efforts (which include “Staying Alive,” the bizarre and OTT sequel to “Saturday Night Fever”). At the very least we can expect an inane monologue from Rocky about Putin, giving him what he once gave Gorbachev.