Creed III Review | Still the Champ

by Andrew Parker

A highly entertaining franchise film and a solid feature directorial debut for star Michael B. Jordan, Creed III can be seen both as character progression and as the closing of a book. It’s a film concerned with trying to find peace in life while also trying to progress to a point of being a mentor. It’s a tough road to travel, and while the gorgeously shot heavyweight bouts peppered throughout Creed III might be its showiest elements, it’s the story of a man seeking forgiveness and closure outside the ring that resonates just as loudly. On one hand, Creed III is more of the same that audiences have come to expect from the Rocky spin-off series, but on the other, it’s a popcorn movie made with brains and heart.

The movie opens with Adonis Creed (Jordan) – former boxing champion and son of legendary fighter Apollo Creed – wrapping up his in ring career, going out at the top of his game while he still can. Adonis is adapting to retirement well, enjoying downtime with his record producer wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their hearing challenged daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). He also relishes the chance to train new fighters at his dad’s old gym, currently working with a new champ (Jose Benavidez) set to take on Creed’s former rival, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). But Creed’s focus from the task at hand is shaken with the sudden reappearance of Damien Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a childhood friend and one time Golden Gloves winner recently released from prison after eighteen years. Although Dame is older than Adonis, Creed wants to try to give Anderson some work and get his boxing career back on track. It’s a decision that Adonis will start to regret as Dame’s dark side comes to the forefront, and it becomes apparent that Anderson is still mad with Creed about the incident that sent him to prison in the first place.

At first, Creed III doesn’t feel like a make-or-break proposition like its two predecessors. While Jordan boasts a formidable handle on cinematic style, the script from writers Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin (working from a story written in part by series originator Ryan Coogler) is more focused on slowly sussing out relationships; something the Rocky franchise has been traditionally good at. While Sylvester Stallone has no input on this entry whatsoever – and his iconic character is barely mentioned at all – Creed III boasts a similar spirit. By the third entry in the Rocky series, that character was starting to become a victim of their own success, fame, and complacency. The only place to go after reaching the top of the mountain is to either stay there or go down. As things progress and the rift between Adonis and Dame grows larger, Creed III becomes the story of a person becoming a victim of their own unacknowledged hubris. Eventually Creed will have to learn the hard way that being an effective mentor, partner, and parent means facing all one’s weaknesses head on.

It’s a pretty classic hook for a story, and it’s executed very well in Creed III. The viewer knows basically where all of this is heading, and the only real hope is that the journey makes the destination all worthwhile. Jordan – looking even more and more like Carl Weathers with each passing instalment – acclimates himself nicely to the role of director, offering up stunning visuals, an exceptional sense of pacing (which is saying something for a story that technically covers three full years in the lives of the characters), and boxing sequences that aren’t afraid to get a little overly stylish and weird, even offering up a sequence that take a big swing to play out more like theatre of the mind than a traditional arena-set bout. The less said about the disappointing Playstation 3 level look of the CGI created arena crowds, the better, but everything else about Creed III screams “big screen experience.”

The bombast, spectacle, and requisite training montages are all there, but as always with these films, the success rises and falls on the people involved, with returning cast members Jordan, Thompson, and Phylicia Rashad (as Adonis’ mother) bringing their best once again. Young Davis-Kent makes for a charismatic addition to the family, and Wood Harris gets a lot more to do this time out as the skeptical and critical head trainer at Adonis’ gym. But outside of Jordan’s expectedly fine work, Creed III belongs to Majors, who continues his breakout year with another riveting performance. Majors plays Dame like a feral, caged animal and frightened, stunted adolescent fighting for dominance in the same body. Majors’ body language is imposing and fully reasoned, and the character speaks with equal parts confidence and shyness. It’s one of the most realistic and lived in performances depicting someone released after years in prison that I’ve ever seen. Sleep on Majors’ talents at your own peril. He’s an absolute powerhouse of a performer.

Creed III marks a shift in tone and possible closing chapter for a successful franchise. There’s something about Jordan’s film that feels like a final chapter in one book, while leaving the door open for a completely different book down the road. That’s fitting for a film that wants to look at the relationship between a mentor and a mentee. It handles this balance arguably better than any of the Rocky films ever did, and Creed III takes a stance to distance itself further away from the franchise that birthed it, while remaining true to the overall spirit that makes people want to see these films in the first place. It might not be an early round knock-out, but Creed III remains a solid unanimous decision that goes the distance.

Creed III opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, March 3, 2023.

Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get weekly updates on our latest contests, interviews, and reviews.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Read More