Movie Review: ‘Creed III’

Director: Michael B. Jordan

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Muntanu, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent

Plot: Years following his retirement from boxing, Adonis Creed returns to the ring to face a dangerous figure from his past.

Review: Not going to lie, one must be feeling pretty bold to take on a job like this as your directing debut. HIs first time in the driver’s seat, Michael B. Jordan is carrying the torch of the Rocky franchises ninth film and taking the reigns from Ryan Coogler’s highly acclaimed two film run. Now that I’ve clumsily mixed three metaphors in one sentence, we will cut to the chase and say that he’s done a solid job. Doubly so, since he’s very much the face of the series.

Adonis Creed (Jordan) has maintained his championship title and decided to retire at the top. In the years that follow he’s focused his attention on his family and household whilst Bianca’s (Thompson) career continues to thrive. Creed is set to pit his new champion, Felix (Jose Benavidez) against former rival Draco (Muntanu) when a friend from childhood returns. Having aspired to be a champion boxer before being jailed for an event Creed was also involved in, Dame Anderson (Majors) insists on being put in the ring with Felix. After a brutal match where Dame employs dirty tactics, Creed challenges Dame to a fight.

For such a significant character from Creed’s past who pops up out of nowhere, they successfully sell this newcomer as an important emotional figure for Creed. They suffered childhood abuse together, and it was Creed’s actions that resulted in Dame being jailed. Although not initially apparent, we come to see the anger than resentment that drives Dame. Both characters feel like they need to come out on top of the fight to prove their value to themselves and to let go of the wrongs done to them in the past.

It’s been a long time since the Rocky franchise started to feel formulaic, and whilst Coogler’s reinvigoration of the series with Creed returned it to past glories it does feel like it’s fallen back into the same groove. We go through a very familiar routine of seeing where our hero is in life, introducing a new rival, demonstrating their power, then montage training their way to a bombastic finale. Whether it’s because the character feel so grounded, or because boxing is such an inherently photogenic sport, the formula still works. Jordan has learnt from his predecessors and crafts an engaging story with a focus on the characters. Suddenly, the idea of two people beating the tar out of each other while a well-dressed crowd howls for blood doesn’t just seem like a good idea, but a just one.

The only major gripe with the movie comes during the big final fight. The creative decision has been made to layer in some visual metaphor, with the crowd disappearing and leaving the fighters battling in an empty stadium and being trapped against prison bars. It’s a nice enough idea to emphasise the focus of the rivals, but it feels heavy handed and unnecessary, much like the garbled sentence that started this review. Having already built up the realistic and visceral fight, this took us entirely out of the moment and it was a relief to get back to the actual bout.

Putting that quibble aside, Jordan continues the high standard of quality we’ve come to expect from this series. Great performances and action. Happy to see more in the future.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN