Review | Creed III (2023)
Michael B. Jordan directs and stars in the boxing threequel. But is Creed III a knockout or is it down for the count?
Seconds out! Round three! The third spin-off from the Rocky franchise, Creed III is hitting screens worldwide. Directed and starring Michael B. Jordan, the film once again focuses on the character of Adonis Creed. With support from the returning Tessa Thompson and featuring Jonathan Majors, the movie is hoping to be a box-office knockout. But can it stand for a full ten count or is it destined to be laid out on the canvas?
After the events of Creed II, Adonis “Donnie” Creed is thriving in both his boxing career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian “Dame” Anderson, resurfaces after serving a long sentence in prison, he is eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Donnie must put his future on the line to battle Dame – a fighter who has nothing to lose.
Although the movie isn’t the knockout we all hoped for, it is a terrific piece of sporting movie drama. It contains enough heart, soul, and enjoyment to make the audience go home happy. The emotion the film presents is the core of the proceedings from the start. And the fight scenes themselves are brutal, and bloody, and give no quarter to any of the fighters that step into the ring. This is a hardback to the original Rocky movies. The drama, the heart, and the feeling of triumph are here for all to see.
Those hoping for a cameo from Sylvester Stallone (who is one of the producers here) should get ready for a disappointment. Although the character is referenced, Rocky himself doesn’t make an appearance at all. But strangely, this is to the film’s advantage. Instead of depending somewhat on Rocky to help carry the story forward, here the spin-off stands on its own two feet. It moves on with its own legacy, cementing the character of Creed into our minds throughout. And it does a brilliant job of doing so.
Michael B. Jordan once again portrays Adonis brilliantly. The story has somewhat of a mix-up of several storylines of the Rocky movies. But Jordan is more than capable of standing up to leading the franchise by himself. Adonis is at a crossroads in many ways. He runs a gym, is highly successful, and has his own family to lean on. But during proceedings, we see that Adonis is still agonizing over events from his past. These scenes are played extremely well and Jordan gives a performance that continues to endear him to us. He also moves us in the scenes he has with his deaf daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent in a terrific performance). These scenes give the film the heart it needs and Jordan acts and directs them to perfection.
Tessa Thompson as Bianca also turns in a great performance. From the start, we see how Bianca has adjusted to being a mom as well as furthering her business career. Bianca is now a producer after giving up her singing due to fears of her losing her hearing completely. And Tessa Thompson gives the performance the film needs. Her interactions with Jordan and Mila Davis-Kent have us smiling and feeling moved at every turn. But the fierceness that we have seen in her during the previous two movies does make an appearance here too. She isn’t the token female character, she is one part of the spine that supports the movie. And shows the toughness that her character deserves.
Wood Harris as Tony “Little Duke” Evers, Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago, Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed, and Tony Bellew as “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, reprising his role from the first film are superb. Harris is especially good as Little Duke. He manages to invoke memories of his movie father ‘Duke’ (the late Tony Burton) to sheer perfection. While Rocky gained Duke during his third movie, Adonis has Little Duke by his side in his. And the interaction between him and Jordan brings back memories from days gone by. Munteanu as Viktor Drago has a token role in the film but it is great to see him return as the character once again. His appearance alone links the second and third films nicely. And it is wonderful to see the character not be like his father but actually become friends with Adonis instead of an arch-enemy.
THE CREED LEGACY
Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed gives an emotional and grounded performance once again. And it is her character that also gives the film some much-needed heart along the way. Her memories of her late husband Apollo Creed also help link the franchises together. Tony Bellew as “Pretty” Ricky Conlan makes a brief but wonderful appearance in the movie. And his scenes with Jordan manage to not only bring a smile to our faces but also some levity that we wouldn’t expect. Conlan still gives Adonis a hard time during their scenes. But we get the feeling that despite the swagger of the character, he holds a soft spot for Adonis once their fight is done. Bellew does a great job with his limited screen time.
But after stealing the show in Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, Jonathan Majors does it again here. His performance as Damian “Dame” Anderson is the real highlight of the entire movie. When we first meet him as an adult, we feel sorrow and empathy for him. His character is an old friend of Adonis, one that went to prison for eighteen years after an event in their past. Dame is now out and returns to his former friend. Adonis is shocked but delighted that his buddy is now back on the street. And the emotion is furthered when Dame declines money from Adonis, claiming he didn’t come back to him for a handout. In these scenes, Majors brings us to feel for his character, and our emotion for him is genuine.
But from mid-way onwards, we see the real reason Dame has returned to his former friend. And we discover that he is a manipulating thug, desperate to bring Adonis down and claim what he feels has been stolen from him by his former friend. In these scenes, we see we have been fooled and begin to hate Dame. And it is the brilliance of Jonathan Majors and his acting prowess that we go through all the emotions. His performance, whether it be a smiling friendly face to Bianca and Amara, or a snarling, jubilant thug on the beach to Adonis, is cinematic brilliance. And it proves that Jonathan Majors truly is a genuine A-lister, one that I can see winning an Academy Award in the not-too-distant future.
The screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, based on a story by the pair alongside Ryan Coogler is wonderful, if not entirely original. There is enough here that is new but at times, we see updated representations of some of Rocky’s greatest moments. A training montage? You got it. The hero throwing his arms in the air at the top of a mountain? It’s here. Betrayal by someone close to him? Yep, it happens. The hero suffers a tragedy and is coaxed back from the brink to rise again. Of course. But the screenplay has enough heart for us to overlook these replications and enjoy the film for what it is. A good old-fashioned sporting drama about loss, betrayal, and redemption.
Creed III has enough gas in the tank to easily bring happiness and joy to the audience. And it still has enough in reserve for a fourth outing, if there is one. Everything we want from a Creed movie is here for us to lap up gleefully. The performances are top-notch, the action is brutal and unrelenting, and the score is fitting (despite the use of a snippet of Bill Conti’s music from Rocky II). The story does have a few moments where we find ourselves back on familiar territory but it’s a minor quibble against everything we are presented with over 116 minutes.
Ultimately, the film is a story about how we can never truly escape the past, despite everything we do. About our mistakes, our failings, and the actions we take. And how we can attempt to rectify ourselves, to become better people over time. And how at the end of the day, if we hold grudges against others, we won’t only destroy them but ourselves in the process. We discover that everything we believe we are owed, that we have earned the right to take, is just an illusion, material things that can be replaced whereas the love and devotion of a family can never be. It is a tale that is as old as time. But one that is as relevant today as it has always been. Creed III may not manage to land a full knockout blow but it certainly wins on points.
Creed III opens in theaters on Friday, 3rd March courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.
Feel the Force on Social Media.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!