Adonis “Donnie” Creed is continuing his journey in the upcoming Creed II movie.
Fans of the infamous Rocky series started following his transformation from working in the financial industry while moonlighting as an amateur brawler to his rise as a professional boxer in 2015’s Creed. In the first installment, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) needed to learn a few lessons inside and outside of the ring.
He sharpened his technical skills with the help of Rocky Balboa and the Front Street Gym gang, but he was in a complicated mental and emotional space. Donnie was his famous boxing father Apollo Creed’s best kept secret — an “illegitimate” child he fathered prior to dying during Rocky IV’s Creed v. Drago.
In a sense, Adonis was born into underdoghood as a child reeling from the absence of an unidentified father along with his mother’s untimely death. His constant bouncing from between group homes and juvenile detention centers forced him to develop his own defense mechanisms for the loneliness and discord of his unstable life.
He had a fighter’s spirit long before being taken in by Creed’s widow Mary Anne, and he developed a complex relationship with his deceased father. Adonis was angry about the father-son relationship that would never be realized, yet equally fascinated by Apollo’s brash boxing persona.
He also harbored feelings of abandonment toward Apollo because his death was preventable. Adonis decides to follow in his father’s footsteps, yet naively believes he can pursue this career in a social media age without anyone discovering the truth.
He claims he wants to disassociate himself from the Creed legacy, yet he teams up with his father’s famous best friend in search of a trainer and mentor. He wouldn’t admit it, but he was in search of more than a trainer.
He wanted answers about his father’s decisions and to make a familial connection with Rocky. Adonis was seeking validation as a boxer and a person who felt like he was nothing more than a “mistake.”
His pervasive identity crisis played a major role in his character arc. Adonis refused to acknowledge his connection to Apollo and used his birthname Johnson because it “made things easier.”
He remained guarded and secretive with his girlfriend Bianca and others (outside of Rocky) about who his father was until it was forced out via the news. Bianca helped him confront the obvious truth — he IS his father’s son and therefore worthy of taking on the Creed moniker.
But, that didn’t mean he had to forget his past and be ashamed of where he comes from, which is confirmed when he rocks his star-spangled trunks with Creed AND his legal surname Johnson. In the end, Adonis lost to the world champ “Pretty” Ricky Conlan but earned the respect of the boxing world.
He’s been knocked down (physically and metaphorically), but he continues to get up again.
Creed II’s trailer gives fans a glimpse into where the young star’s current life. Bianca is still by his side along with their baby, indicating that a couple of years have passed since Creed.
The story is likely progressing in real-time, during which Adonis has gained notoriety as a champion. This isn’t explicitly stated but implied by the cameras on him during one training session and the trailer’s graphic saying there is more to lose than a title.
At some point, Donnie is on the receiving end of a boxing beat-down and ends up in the hospital. It’s not clear if this is a flashback that will catch fans up on his fights during the time lapse or if it happens to him in real-time during the movie, but it is likely a turning point for him in some way.
Despite a solid boxing career and a partnership with Rocky, Adonis is still trapped in the cycle of continuously needing to feel validated and seeking vengeance for his father’s death. Creed II pits him against Ivan Drago’s son for a new Creed v. Drago match.
It’s Donnie’s chance to confront the past and win the fight he wishes his father could have completed successfully. Adonis still feels the weight of his father’s legacy, admitting in a voiceover that he was afraid he couldn’t live up to the expectations of being a Creed.
The trailer brilliantly features Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA,” which serves as the perfect theme music for Adonis. He’s a proven hip-hop lover who indeed has boxing royalty in his DNA with his father’s wit and ambition embedded into his personality.
Creed II could be both Adonis and Rocky’s chance to finally come to terms with their unresolved feelings behind Apollo’s death and a reminder that they must live for the future. Adonis is working on his legacy inside the ring, but he will have to think about the ripple effects outside of the ring based on his decisions.
Rocky urges him to let this Drago fight go because Adonis has a future. He’s speaking out of fear of losing Adonis, who has become his surrogate son, in the same circumstances that he lost his best friend.
To Rocky, Adonis IS the future — a representation and continuation of the Creed legacy as well as his own. Rocky’s sentiment is echoed by Mary Anne, who suggests that this fight is not really about Apollo.
And, there might be some truth to her perspective. His need to fight Drago is partially related to the champion title (either defending it or reclaiming it) and avenging his father, but it is much more about this massive chip on his shoulder and unresolved anger over losing his father and biological mother.
Adonis and Mary Anne appear to be on the road to reconciliation, but his decision to fight Drago will certainly put them at odds again.
Bianca is in his corner, but he is obviously frustrated with his mother and trainer’s responses. His voice trembles in with hurt and disappointment in response to Rocky’s opposition as he replies, “You don’t think I can beat him.”
Because Rocky is a father figure, mentor, and has guided his career, he craves his approval and support of his decisions. The same goes for Mary Anne, who gave him stability and loved him despite the extramarital affair that led to his birth.
They have been his strongest allies and stepped into his life at crucial points, so their doubt and lack of support will always have an emotional effect.
In many ways, Adonis is still that young kid who is fighting to be respected and valued as a person. A win against Drago in Creed II may be Adonis first step toward releasing his pain over the past and focusing on his own future while still honoring his father’s legacy.
Creed II will be released November 21, 2018.