Creed III (2023)
Directed by: Michael B. Jordan
Premise: Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has retired from boxing and pivoted to managing his business and raising his daughter. He’s approached by Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), an old acquaintance who has dreams of boxing stardom.
What Works: The first Creed was very much a reworking of the original Rocky and Creed II borrowed liberally from several of the Rocky sequels. Creed III has shades of Rocky III and V but it is a refreshingly distinct and original entry in this spinoff series. For whatever reason, Sylvester Stallone does not reprise his role as Rocky Balboa—he’s not part of this story—and that turns out to be a key strength of Creed III. The spinoff series began as a reaction to the death of Apollo Creed in Rocky IV and the first two Creed films worked through that grief, resolving Rocky’s guilt and completing his part in this story. Rocky’s absence from Creed III allows this installment to be fully Adonis’ story and it reaches into the character’s past to explore deep-seated motivations for fighting. Adonis is reunited with Damian, an old acquaintance and talented fighter who just got out of prison. The two of them share a complicated past that’s rooted in their days living in a group home and their uneasiness is evident in Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors’ performances. Creed III has some of the strongest and most nuanced acting of the entire Rocky/Creed series. This story deals with trauma and Creed III explores how these men cope with their issues. From their first encounter it is evident that these two men have unresolved issues which Jordan and Majors communicate in their gait and line readings without stating anything overtly. Creed III is also distinguished by its filmmaking. This threequel is Michael B. Jordan’s first directorial feature and it’s an impressive debut. The movie balances character detail with perspicuous storytelling and it includes some visuals that we haven’t seen in a Rocky film before. The climactic fight scene has some great stylistic innovations that, while not exactly subtle, effectively visualize the complicated conflict between these men.
What Doesn’t: There are a few minor credibility lapses in Creed III. Damian is able to approach Adonis on the street and the boxing champion walks around with no security detail or assistants. In reality, most professional athletes, especially at that level, have an entourage of bodyguards and business associates and so it seems unlikely that this ex-con would ever get close to the heavyweight champion of the world. The mid-story fight also seems unlikely. Rocky and Adonis got their shots at the title in part because they had an established fight record. Creed III repeats that idea with a fighter who has been locked up for almost twenty years and it seems a lot less plausible. These are ultimately minor issues and the drama is compelling enough to overcome them.
Bottom Line: Creed III is not quite as physically visceral as the first film but it is the most soulful entry in the series. This is an excellent example of a sequel moving its characters and story forward and adding depth that enriches the overall series. It’s also a highly entertaining and well-crafted boxing picture.
Episode: #940 (March 12, 2023)