REVIEW: “Creed III” (2023)

Going into 2015’s “Creed”, I admit to being a little skeptical. After six Rocky installments I wasn’t convinced I needed a spin-off movie. As it turned out, writer-director Ryan Coogler had a pretty terrific story to tell, Michael B. Jordan showed himself to be genuine leading man material, and Sylvester Stallone’s presence in a supporting role not only linked “Creed” to his Rocky movies, but grounded the movie in a way I wasn’t expecting (him losing the Supporting Actor Oscar is still a travesty).

Coogler passed on the sequel due to scheduling reasons, yet “Creed II” didn’t miss a beat. In fact, in many ways it was even better than its predecessor, with Jordan taking a step up and Stallone giving yet another terrific supporting performance. And that brings us to “Creed III” which sees Jordan not only starring, but also making his directorial debut. And it’s a good one.

Much like the previous two films, “Creed III” once again gives us a story that focuses more on its characters and their relationships than actually boxing. In addition to Jordan returning to play Adonis Creed, Tessa Thompson is back playing Adonis’ wife Bianca, Phylicia Rashad as his mother Mary Anne, and Wood Harris as boxing trainer Duke Evers. There are several other familiar faces than fans of the Creed movies with enjoy seeing.

Image Courtesy of United Artists Releasing

New to the series is the adorable scene-stealing Mila Davis-Kent playing Adonis and Bianca’s hearing-impaired daughter Amara. She’s a delight and not only does she bring heart to the story, but she also adds stakes. But most will be talking about Jonathan Majors as Damian “Dame” Anderson, Adonis’ childhood friend with a big chip on his shoulder and an even bigger axe to grind.

Majors is currently all the rave, and along with his name comes an unbridled fan-fueled ‘can do no wrong’ adoration that has even crossed into some film critic circles. But don’t let all the hyperbole-soaked praise on your Twitter feed sour you. Majors is a legitimate star on the rise, and if you need more proof outside of the eclectic array of performances he’s already delivered, look no further than “Creed III”. Majors does some fiercely intense, nomination worthy work which I hope is remembered next Oscar season. He’s that good here.

From appearing on billboards for Ralph Lauren to running his own gym and boxing promotion called Creed Athletics, a recently retired Adonis Creed is enjoying a life of luxury. He has it all – celebrity status, a lavish mansion in an upscale neighborhood, expensive suits, even more expensive cars. Thankfully his wife Bianca, now a successful record producer after hearing problems cut short her singing career, keeps Adonis grounded. And the two are raising a sweet and spunky young daughter together.

But Adonis’ world is shaken when his best friend from childhood, Damian suddenly reappears after serving 18 years in a penitentiary. Damian was a boxing prodigy and a former golden gloves championship with a huge career ahead of him. “Diamond Dame” was a rising star and Adonis followed him everywhere. But while out together one fateful night in 2002, an incident outside of a liquor store changes both of their lives forever. Adonis gets away; Damian is arrested and sent to prison.

Image Courtesy of United Artists Releasing

Riddled with guilt, Adonis tries to help get his old friend back on his feet: inviting Damian into his home, introducing him to his family, and even setting him up in his gym. But as more details of their past comes to light, a steady tension boils up between them. It turns out that Damian is back to pick up where he left off, whether that means going through Adonis’ hot-headed protégé and new heavyweight champion, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), or (inevitably) Adonis himself.

Screenwriters Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin (working from a story they conceived with Ryan Coogler) continue the franchise’s long-running theme of facing and fighting your demons in more ways that just a boxing match. You might think that would get old. But the Creed movies (much like the Rocky films before it) tell stories rooted in the indomitable human spirit. Sure, they always end in a boxing ring with millions of people watching. But the undercurrent of humanity give the fights more weight. Never before has that been more true than in “Creed III”.

That humanity shines through in Jordan’s direction. His instincts transcends that of a first-timer, both in his wonderful command of the adult drama, and in his buildup and execution of the brutal showdown in a sold-out Dodger Stadium. Meanwhile Jordan the actor takes his character to some meaningful new places, and the scenes he shares with Majors are riveting. I do wish Rocky Balboa himself had gotten more than a single insignificant mention, and I’m always up for more screen time for Phylicia Rashad. But the film’s absorbing central conflict keeps us firmly in its grip. And by the time the Main Event comes around, we’re so invested that any complaint feels like nothing more than a quibble. “Creed III” is out now in theaters.


11 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Creed III” (2023)

  1. I only saw bits of the last film though I liked what I saw as I do want to see this one while I’m totally happy for Jonathan Majors right now as he’s got 2 films on top of the box office and he’s just getting started. We got a new superstar coming.

  2. I love these two superstars, Jordan and Majors, and it is hard to pick a favorite here. Majors is usually the good guy and so is Jordan so it will be a tough call. I liked Creed but seem to remember not as thrilled with Creed II. After reading your review I’m hepped up to see Creed III!

  3. Still working through my overall feelings. I like it! But do think it misses the flourishes that the other movies have; not necessarily Sly, but small things like the HBO guys who added to the big fight feel and Ludwig, who composed amazing scores for these. I didn’t love the fight style MBJ used but think it will grow on me over time and I respect he did something different.

    • The fight itself was a bit jarring. I know what Jordan was going for. Stylistically it left me a bit unsure. But the actual boxing itself was brutal and I felt every punch. I did miss Sly quite a bit. He brought a lot to the previous two movies and I can only imagine him helping part 3.

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