Creed III (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – After dominating the boxing world, Adonis has been thriving in his career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces, the face off between former friends is more than just a fight.

My Take – It is hard to believe that the Rocky franchise, which conquered the world first back in 1976, is still going to strong, with its ninth installment hitting and once again scoring over the box office previous weekend. As a big fan of the series myself, especially of its spin-off series, Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018), I am glad to say this one too does not disappoint.

It marks a confident directorial debut from star Michael B. Jordan who shows that he’s already achieved a mastery of the formula that’s brought the series so much success and is familiar enough to grant him the confidence needed to take risks, and it couldn’t have worked out better. The film is arguably the best of its trilogy, offering a matured and settled world to those who have been following the series, while throwing the audience enough curve balls and revelations to keep them engaged.

However, in my opinion, the biggest success of this latest entry into the franchise is how it sees its star Michael B. Jordan revive his character of Adonis Creed without the character of Rocky Balboa, proving that the universe can successfully go beyond Sylvester Stallone’s presence. The film acknowledges the influence of the saga while stepping out from the shadow of Rocky Balboa with a film that stands firmly on its established trilogy foundation.

Yes, structurally, the film doesn’t do much to break that familiar mold, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. As director Jordan‘s love and passion for the franchise shows in every single shot and sequence. Resulting in yet another strong entry into the franchise that encapsulates the boxing world both in and outside of the ring in hard-hitting fashion.

Beginning with a prologue set in 2002 Los Angeles, the story heads back to sometime after the events of the previous film and once again follows Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of the legendary Apollo Creed, who has certainly done an excellent job of carrying on his late father’s legacy, even surpassing it in many ways.

Now retired at the top of his game, Adonis seems to be enjoying the off time, including the trappings of success, dropping occasionally at the gym where the Duke (Wood Harris) is still training Creed Athletics’ finds, and spending much of his time with wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a successful music producer, and daughter (Mila Davis-Kent), who has a hearing disability.

However, his stable life gets a sudden jump when Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a boxing prodigy and mentor to young Adonis resurfaces after serving a lengthy prison sentence. At first, Adonis feels compelled to help his old friend, but with nothing to lose, Damien is determined to return to the ring and reclaim what was taken from him at any cost, even if it means forcing Adonis out of retirement for another match.

The film noticeably takes a decisive step to fight on its own, away from the franchise and without the iconic force of Sylvester Stallone to assist in any way. Aside from one mention of Rocky and a brief needle drop of the original score, the film is its own story. And for the most part, it successfully builds an entertaining, if never too unfamiliar, arc of spectacle and emotion that lets Michael B. Jordan confidently own the character and directing responsibilities.

The film’s exploration of weighty themes of childhood trauma and forgiveness complements the violent nature of the sport, adding dimension that is indubitably more fulfilling than other sports films. With a much more reduced cast than its predecessors, and a bigger focus on internal struggle than physical brawls, the film is completely dependable on the chemistry of its cast to carry the film.

Its clear Jordan knows Adonis inside out by now, while Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin’s script gives him enough agency and space to explore depths unknown in the character both as an actor and as a director. And Jordan understands his characters, their motivations, and their stories. He knows the effect a foiled brotherhood can have on a man’s particular sense of pride.

His directing is entirely reflective of this comprehension, and one only needs to listen to him speak on why he loves the anime which served as inspiration for his work to realize this. The result is a surprisingly sensitive portrayal of two men’s complicated emotional bond, which just so happens to only be solvable on the ring. The boxing is not the main character here, but actually a vehicle the protagonists find to express grievances and trauma so tangled they can’t properly be translated into words.

It’s well known at this point that anime was an influence for him as well and that is absolutely clear in the action, elevating the thrilling nature of the fights. He is intent to make his film stand out as the first boxing film shot for IMAX, and every shot is framed with a sense of large-scale spectacle. This works wonderfully in the stadium scenes but less so in more mundane scenes, such as in the bathroom at the Creed home where Donnie and his wife, Bianca, talk while she brushes her teeth.

Performance wise too, Michael B. Jordan is incredible once again, bringing that charm and likeability to Adonis as well as the vulnerability. However, it is Jonathan Majors who steals the show throughout the film, playing a soft-spoken yet intimidating former friend to Adonis. Majors is physically menacing both in and out of the ring; the actor consistently maintains an anxious and cautious posture, as if, at any moment, someone might attack him. What’s great is that the relationship between Creed and Anderson was morally grey so you could empathize with both sides of the story which make the film more heartfelt.

Tessa Thompson may not have much to do on the page, but the actress brings a charm as a mom and confidence in scenes as a wife trying to understand the complicated trauma of her partner’s past. The small moments Thompson shares with Phylicia Rashad as Adonis’ adoptive mother Mary Anne Creed positively come alive despite their reduced screen time, and the two make you believe every word when Bianca says Mary Anne was the closest thing she had to a mother.

In supporting turns, Florian Munteanu and Wood Harris add enough element to the proceedings. On the whole, ‘Creed III’ is an undeniable fun entry into the franchise that also marks a confident directorial debut for Michael B. Jordan.

Directed –

Starring – , Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors

Rated – R

Run Time – 116 minutes

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