By Chris “Boogie” Brown
“Creed III” is the newest chapter in the Creed saga, a spinoff franchise of the “Rocky” films made popular by Sylvester Stallone. For this film, Michael B. Jordan has returned to the role of Adonis Creed and has also taken his place behind the camera to make his directorial debut. This film seeks to raise the stakes for Adonis like never before as we find him fighting his most personal battle yet.
Years after finding fame and success through his boxing talents, “Creed III” finds Adonis Creed at a wonderful place in his life. Now, as a husband, father, and facing retirement to become a flourishing boxing promoter, we suddenly witness Adonis confronted with a hidden aspect of his past that he is forced to face. When a childhood friend and boxing talent named Damien Anderson resurfaces after a long prison sentence, his sights are set on Adonis and reclaiming what he feels has been taken from him. When emotions come to a boiling point, Adonis is forced to take a stand and face Damien in a personal fight where more than just titles are at stake.
“Creed III” is an excellent film that completely exceeds expectations! Written by Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler (with a story credit by Ryan Coogler), this is a sports-drama packed with rich and soulful themes. We delve into a range of emotions like relationships, loss, guilt, forgiveness, and the role that compartmentalized childhood traumas play in our adult lives. The film has a powerful emotional core that really draws viewers into the lives of these characters and keeps you invested throughout. Between the amazing chemistry of the cast, the performances, and poignant storytelling, which even features shocking moments and surprising revelations, “Creed III” absolutely shines and is certainly a worthy entry to the franchise.
Working with talented directors over his 24-year career has clearly influenced Michael B. Jordan and it shows here. “Creed III” looks great, feels cinematic, has beautiful cinematography, and also utilizes a vibrant and vibrant aesthetic for its visual approach. In terms of shot selection, Jordan seamlessly transitions between various camera angles and vantage points to capture either the quiet intimacy or explosive intensity of a scene throughout the film. Additionally, Jordan’s meticulous use of sound design, score, and soundtrack to accentuate certain moments is an effective sensory component to the overall presentation. However, one of the most surprising aspects of Jordan’s direction is how well he captured the amazing boxing scenes showcased in this film.
“Creed III” contains several boxing sequences throughout the film with each feeling completely different from the next. Not only are the fights well-choreographed and edited, but Jordan has taken a unique approach to filming the action. He utilized his love of anime to influence the feel and look of the sequences. That said, utilizing dynamic camerawork that at times gives us a first-person point of view, the fight scenes in “Creed III” now contain a hyper-stylized, kinetic sense of combat that illuminates the brutality and intensity of the action. Additionally, in the film’s final fight, Jordan creatively takes distinct and artistic liberties to visually draw us closer into the personal nature of the battle between Adonis and Damien.
In terms of the cast, each of the returning actors do an amazing job for this third installment. In short, Michael B. Jordan is excellent here and has never been better in the role of “Adonis”. Tessa Thompson is wonderful as “Bianca”, Adonis’s wife, and mother of his daughter (the adorable Mila Davis-Kent). Phylicia Rashad reprises her role as Mary Anne Creed, Adonis’s mother, and delivers a beautiful performance. Wood Harris also returns as Little Duke, Adonis’s trainer, and gives a spirited performance as well. Also returning to the film is Florian Munteanu reprising his role as Viktor Drago from “Creed II”. Lastly, “Creed III” also features several professional boxers, trainers, and sports personalities which all add a further sense of authenticity to the film.
However, one of the biggest surprises of “Creed III” is the addition of Jonathan Majors as the film’s antagonist, Damien Anderson. Despite Damien’s hardened demeanor, his actual plight in the story makes him a sympathetic antagonist you can also care about. The excellent writing for the character is even further accentuated by the screen presence and phenomenal acting pedigree that Jonathan Majors brings to the role. Majors is sensational and brings a sense of rawness & realism while also having the charisma, look, physicality, and athleticism to be the perfect foil to Jordan’s Adonis Creed. Majors brings such a nuanced approach to the role through his mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language that it’s simply hard for him not to steal every scene he’s in. Jonathan Majors is an absolute force here!
One character that unfortunately isn’t present in “Creed III” is Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa. Between Stallone, the producers and the filmmakers being at odds over multiple issues regarding the Rocky character and the direction of the Creed franchise, Stallone sadly does not appear in the movie. Despite his absence, the story in “Creed III” still functions very effectively while only “referencing” Rocky at moments. However, there is one particular scene in the film where Rocky’s physical absence was truly felt the most. No spoilers though. It is simply hard to imagine Rocky’s lack of presence during a key moment in the movie.
If I had any criticism of the film, it would be that the 3rd act of the film feels slightly rushed. This particular story is so engaging and the performances are so great that you actually want to spend even more time with these characters. Clocking in at a brisk 2 hours, the film could have benefitted even more from having a slightly longer runtime. Despite that critique, “Creed III” still excels by ultimately showcasing genuine character progression, excellent storytelling, and both a grounded and relatable family dynamic throughout.
If you’re a fan of the previous films in this franchise, I highly recommended seeing this when it releases in theatres everywhere on 3/3/23.
“Creed III” is a knockout – Enjoy!!