You can't run from your past.
Creed III is a 2023 sports drama film directed by Michael B. Jordan, written by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Chartoff-Winkler Productions, Proximity Media, and Outlier Society, and distributed by United Artists Releasing and Warner Bros. Pictures. The film stars Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors. This is the ninth film in the Rocky franchise and the third in the Creed franchise. It was preceded by Creed II.
"Let go of whatever was and walk in to what is." - Little Duke
After retiring from boxing, Adonis Creed is faced with a new challenge when Damian Anderson, his childhood friend, returns after being locked up for eighteen years. As Adonis tries to reconnect with Damian, he realizes that he's fighting for something deeper than just boxing.
I think this may be the best movie in the franchise. And that's including the Rocky movies (which I like, don't love).
Creed III is different. All of the previous movies are about Rocky or Adonis being tasked with a fight. Those films spend the entire runtime building up to that fight, and then the finale is always the fight. Even in the movies where the entire film isn't the fight, it's always about boxing. Of course, Creed III is still a boxing movie, but it isn't really about the fight. It's much more story and character-driven, which I absolutely loved.
And on that note, I found the story and characters to be fantastic. The film tackles the conflict between Adonis and his childhood friend, Damian, which is just a compelling story to go with. We spend almost as much time with Damian as we do with Adonis, so we get Damian's character fleshed out. You feel sympathy for him while also just knowing all the while that he's dangerous and can blow up at any time. And, because we get to know Damian so well and we already know Adonis, their conflict is extremely complex and compelling. Jonathan Majors really elevates both his character and the conflict. He's so good at layered acting. He can communicate multiple emotions with one look or one line of dialogue. There are times where he's terrifying, but you still feel for him. And that's incredible.
Michael B. Jordan also made a statement in his directorial debut. This film is easily the most stylized movie in the Rocky franchise. It looks sleek and feels well-produced, but Jordan does stuff with the camera that is incredibly unique to this franchise. He shoots the fight scenes with this exciting fast pace while also giving you a huge amount of symbolism and messaging between the punches. I really, really dug what he did here.
I also really liked the intensity here. I wouldn't exactly call any of the Rocky or Creed films intense. I don't think that's the right word. They can be exciting and adrenaline-fuelled, but I don't think you ever feel stakes or a sense of danger. Creed III has a solid amount of tension. You feel Damian's presence and the threat he poses to Adonis. It makes the final fight feel more impactful than it usually does. Every punch hits a little bit harder, which I thought was great.
This movie also entirely establishes the Creed franchise as its own thing. Of course, Creed will always be tied to Rocky. I still think of Creed III as a Rocky movie (even if the Italian Stallion isn't in it), but it definitely feels like its own thing. Part of that is the absence of Sylvester Stallone and Rocky Balboa. This movie works without him. I didn't feel his absence at all. Forty minutes into the movie, I thought about Rocky for the first time, and I immediately came to the conclusion that Creed III doesn't need him in it. I obviously side with Sylvester Stallone when it comes to all the controversy surrounding this movie and his involvement, but I think the movie works without Rocky.
I really loved the complexity of this movie. I know I got into it earlier with the film being more story-based, but I thought the story had some really complex themes and messaging that made it more interesting. Complex and Rocky aren't two words that usually go together, but with Creed III, it presents a series of dilemmas and moral pickles that make you think. It isn't just a boxing movie. It's much deeper than that.
Creed III is great, but there are some glaring problems.
First off, it moves a little bit too fast. The pacing is fine, but some of the story beats speed by. The way that Damian actually gets into the ring for the first time was a little bit unbelievable. It just felt like we needed to see him practicing more before he actually fought someone, especially in the circumstance that he fought this person in. The movie rushes into the finale pretty quickly, too. It feels like you're smack-dab in the middle of the film when something suddenly happens and we're in the ring with Adonis and Damian fighting. It needed a little bit more time to breath and let things sit before it rushed into the next plot beat.
Secondly, I felt like Adonis's family was used somewhat weirdly here. I liked their inclusion. Of course Bianca and Amara and Mary Anne are important to the story, but they are much more important in the first half of the movie. Amara has her own little subplot that just gets forgotten about once the movie decides to truly focus in on Adonis and Damian. Bianca is still a major part, but it feels like she isn't as vital to the story as she should be.
Quick note: Damian gets out of prison and talks about the fact that he has a probation officer, but some of the stuff that he does makes absolutely no sense if that's the case. He probably wouldn't even be allowed to box the way he does if he truly had a PO.
While I love that this film steps out of the shadow of the Rocky franchise...Rocky isn't mentioned once. He's actually mentioned in the trailer, but he isn't mentioned in the film, and I thought that was weird. It's not a major complaint, but it played a little bit strange. It feels like they should've at least mentioned him once.
Final Thoughts and Score
Creed III may have a few issues, but overall, this is a highly entertaining, thoughtful, and compelling entry in the franchise.
I'm gonna go Sweet here. Age range is 8+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Characters: 8.5/10 Quality: 8.5/10
Directed by Michael B. Jordan
Rated PG-13 for moderate bloody violence and action, language, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on March 3, 2023
1 hour and 57 minutes
Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed
Jonathan Majors as Damian Anderson
Tessa Thompson as Bianca Taylor
Wood Harris as Tony "Little Duke" Evers Jr.
Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed
Mila Davis-Kent as Amara Creed
Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago
Alex Henderson as Young Adonis Creed
Spence Moore II as Young Damian Anderson