Movie Review: ‘Creed III’ (Second Opinion)

Plot: After defeating “Pretty” Ricky Conlan in a rematch, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) officially retires from boxing to focus on his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Three years later Donnie runs the Delphi Gym along with Tony “Little Duke” Evers Jr. (Wood Harris). Life post-boxing is going well until Adonis’ old friend Dame Anderson (Jonathan Majors) re-enters his world after a long prison sentence. Determined to get back into boxing, Adonis brings Dame into the gym and before long Anderson gets a surprise title shot. Yet when Dame’s motivations and resentment become clear, Adonis is left with no choice but to take on his former friend in the only arena left to him—the boxing ring.

Review: When Rocky debuted in 1976, I don’t think anyone—including Stallone—ever expected it would spawn a franchise consisting of five sequels, a spin-off, and two sequels to the spinoff. And yet here we are. Obviously much has been made leading up to this third film in the Creed franchise, including Sly Stallone’s absence due to a bitter rights dispute and Michael B. Jordan choosing this particular film to be his directorial debut. This was clearly the movie where Adonis Creed’s character is supposed to step out of the shadow of Rocky Balboa but the real question is nine films in, is there “stuff still in the basement”? In other words, is Creed III any good?

The short answer is yes. However, it is definitely the weakest of the three films and despite being vastly entertaining, carries some noticeable flaws. The boxing scenes, particularly the initial rematch between Conlan and Creed, are a little too stylized for my taste. They possess a sense of almost hyper-reality that’s more akin to Rocky III and IV. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, it’s just quite jarring when weighed against the realism of the last two films, especially the first.

Additionally, the script isn’t as strong as the previous Creed scripts, with Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin stepping in to pen this one. While I appreciated and in some instances loved the themes of confronting past trauma and discovering the will to be vulnerable with the ones we love, the script doesn’t quite have the inspirational qualities of previous films in the franchise. Creed III plays much more like a drama, ala the first Rocky, which works both to its benefit and its detriment. A third-act scene between Adonis and his stepmother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) is absolutely gut-wrenching, while a confrontation between Adonis and Dame on the beach steers dangerously close to melodrama. There’s also a plot point that involves Dame’s improbable shot at the world heavyweight championship that’s blatantly obvious.

Jordan does double duty on Creed III serving as both director and lead actor. Thankfully Jordan acquits himself admirably in both avenues, particularly the latter. Without question, this is the film where Adonis evolves the most as a character. His initial inability to confront and speak about his past impacts every aspect of his life, from his relationship with his daughter and wife to his myopia when it comes to Dame. Michael B. Jordan really flexes his acting muscles, not just his physical ones, and succeeds. Incidentally, Jordan and Thompson once again prove they have great chemistry with Bianca and Donnie’s relationship evolving and strengthening throughout the film. Bianca is truly Donnie’s equal and part of Creed III involves examining what she’s given up career-wise. Also, shout out to Mila Davis-Kent as Adonis’ deaf daughter. She’s fantastic in this film, bringing a smartass quality to her character that I loved.

From a directing standpoint, taking on a franchise as storied as this one is no small feat but Jordan, for the most part, crushes it. The pace is brisk but not too fast and occasionally allows itself to breathe. However, I did feel that there were some contextual scenes missing, particularly for Dame, that would have enriched the film. It even made me wonder what was left on the cutting room floor. Jordan clearly has a great eye for framing shots whether it’s in a tensely dramatic moment or the physical aggression of the boxing ring. It helps that Jordan’s keen eye is assisted by cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau who also shot Creed II.

The inevitable training montage is also one of the best of the entire franchise with Adonis at one point pulling a plane and interestingly having Viktor Drago as a sparring partner. There’s even a clear nod to Rocky IV in the montage which I definitely appreciated. Furthermore, the final fight between Dame and Adonis is excellent with Jordan making a stylized choice that I liked, even if it went on slightly too long. Setting the fight in Dodger Stadium was a brilliant move. Having the crux of the story focused on Dame and Adonis’ complicated relationship keeps the audience invested. It wasn’t just the right call, it was the only call.

And as for Jonathan Majors? At this point, if you don’t think this guy is a full-blown movie star, I don’t know what else to tell you. Da Five Bloods, Lovecraft Country, The Harder They Fall, Ant-Man and Wasp: Quantumania, and now this? He’s fully moved into the “read the phonebook” category for me when it comes to actors. Majors’ Dame is easily one of the most nuanced and layered villains not just of the Creed series but the entire franchise. I mean Tony Bellew was fine as Conlan but he’s not an actor and Florian Munteanu’s Viktor Drago barely spoke and just looked menacing. Dame on the other hand is a fully fleshed-out character that’s bitter but also empathetic. He’s a dark mirror, a look at “what might have been” for Adonis Creed. Majors elevates what’s on the page and makes Dame much more compelling, dynamic, and interesting.

Creed III proves that this franchise still has life in its boxing body. While not a pure knockout, it is absolutely a hard right hook.

My rating system:

God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad

2 Straight Garbage

3 Bad

4 Sub Par

5 Average

6 Ok

7 Good

8 Very Good

9 Great

10 A Must See

Creed III: 7/10