FILM REVIEW: Creed III
Creed III picks up years following its predecessor as World Heavyweight Champion Adonis Creed has retired from the world of boxing and is enjoying domestic life. But when his childhood friend Damian gets in contact after years of being in prison, Adonis will have to confront the sins of his past and consider the role he played in his friend’s life.
Michael B. Jordan continues to own the role of Adonis, having matured from the cocky, emotional fighter he was in the first film to this new phase of life where he is settled with his wife Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, and young daughter Amara, played by Mila Davis-Kent.
Similar to his character, there is more on the line for Jordan this time around as he takes his place in the director’s chair. After two outstanding predecessors, the third in this now-trilogy had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Michael B. Jordan is as competent behind the camera as he is in front, delivering the family drama and inner turmoil of the character with an emotional punch. He may have gotten in his own way with certain directorial flourishes, specifically in the fight scenes, which incorporate super Sherlock Holmes-style slo-mo and blatant metaphorical imagery. An understandably tempting choice to differentiate himself as a first-time director, these flourishes mostly just take you out of the gritty realism of the world established in previous Creed films.
Better handled, though, is the strained relationship between Adonis and his old friend Damian, played by Jonathan Majors, finally in a film worthy of his villainous performance. Uniquely charming and sympathetic upon first meeting but also greatly intimidating and quietly unhinged, Damian looks like he could snap at any moment and, as much as you long for the two friends-turned-rivals to make amends, you also want Adonis to get as far away from him as possible for his own safety.
As with all Rocky/Creed films before this, they are more about stages of life than boxing, especially here with perhaps the least amount of boxing any of these films have ever featured (except for maybe Rocky V). The stage of life that Creed III explores can be likened to the awkward phase of realising that you and the friends you grew up with are not the same people you used to be. This is captured in big ways, such as in how different Adonis and Damian’s lives have turned out, and in small ways, such as in how Damian interacts with his old friend’s new family.
The Creed series, now more than ever, has managed to get out from under the shadow of the beloved Rocky series from which it originally spun-off (in case you didn’t already know) and stand on its own, telling an original story that could only happen because of Adonis and, for the first time, completely omitting Sylvester Stallone as the Italian Stallion. While his presence is naturally missed, especially in a few scenes that could’ve benefited from Rocky’s pearls of wisdom, and more could have been done to explain his absence, Creed is perhaps the best example of a franchise evolving without living off nostalgia bait.
Bits of this review might have sounded more negative than intended, but ultimately Creed III’s engaging story and the main character’s dynamic with Majors’ imposing villain make this another satisfying entry in this knockout franchise. For casual moviegoers, this has all the inspirational life lessons and training montages you expect from a good sports movie; and for Rocky/Creed fans, while it may be the weakest of the spin-off trilogy, feeling more like a middle entry than the potential closer, this is another powerful chapter in the life of this character who is forming a legacy of his own that can stand separate from Rocky.