Creed III (or Creed 3) reaches new franchise heights. The sequel takes Adonis Creed back to humble beginnings, exploring where the boxer originated. Creed‘s new opponent is not a simple antagonist. He is a personal reflection of Adonis’s upbringing. This ferocious fighter’s tragic story could have easily been Creed’s, if not for his famous father.
[Warning: Mild spoilers and impressions from Creed III below!]
The weight of Adonis’ own privilege and success becomes a source of conflict in this third outing. With the addition of visionary fights, an already-established love for the characters, and a story filled with past grudges, Creed III proves that after three movies, the franchise is still in its prime.
Directed by Michael B. Jordan, the film reintroduces us to Adonis (Jordan) at the peak of his career. He has won the heavyweight championship belt, has a fancy home, and has been out of the boxing spotlight for three years. Adonis’s attention has turned to the area of fight-promoting and mentoring other boxers.
His wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) has made compromises in her own career, taking a backseat to singing, instead writing music for other talented artists. Their beautiful daughter Amora Creed (Mila Davis-Kent) attends a private school specializing in children who require ASL (American Sign Language). Amora also gets bullied and fights another child. A moment that forces Adonis and Bianca to debate the merits of teaching their little girl when (and how) to fight.
At his most comfortable place in life, a ghost from Adonis’ past reappears. Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) is an old friend who has been locked up in prison for the majority of his life. Before his conviction, he was a promising boxer with a vicious knockout punch. The type of hit that puts an opponent to sleep.
Due to his imprisonment, his days of fighting in his prime are behind him. To make matters more problematic, Adonis feels partly responsible for Damian being in the penitentiary. This places Adonis in an uncomfortable position when Damian seeks his guidance to fight for the championship belt.
Creed III: Killmonger vs. Kang
The duality of Adonis and Damian is the most compelling element of Creed III. They are both two sides of the same coin. They both grew up in the same group home, survived similar traumas both on and off the streets, and share a love for boxing.
Damian is the ultimate reflection of Adonis had he never been rescued by his Creed bloodline. He is bitter, ruthless, and an unorthodox boxer with a messy approach. One mishap in his youth and Adonis might be the same tired and jaded individual. But life has taken the men down two separate roads that now meet head-on.
Jonathan Majors continues to rule 2023 by bringing an unforgettable performance. His role as Damian is both aggressive and understated. If Majors was provided no dialogue, he could communicate everything Damian is thinking (and feeling) through his eyes. His expression is tired, and he looks defeated by the system which incarcerated him.
Reinventing boxing action within the Rocky franchise
This is one of the best-photographed boxing films in the franchise. It’s the perfect example of how to tell a story through action. There are moments the photographer communicates perfectly Damian’s intentions in a match. For example, the camera will briefly laser focus on an arm or torso, and the viewer is bracing for the detrimental impact of Damian’s fist. Michael B. Jordan displays tremendous potential here as a director, orchestrating fight scenes that are expertly framed and choreographed.
Both he and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau chose to film this sequel in IMAX. This writer did not get to experience the IMAX canvas but even in the standard format, this IMAX-filmed movie had a large feel on screen. The boxing matches feel grandiose like they are filming in the Roman Coliseum.
There are anime influences present as well, with rapid-fire punching sequences that feel Dragon Ball Z inspired. There have been reports that Sylvester Stallone is not happy with the movie. This is probably because Jordan has evolved the property into his own–and quite frankly, it rules.
A story of grudges, regrets, and forgiveness reminiscent of Warrior
The screenplay penned by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin shares some commonalities with 2011’s MMA drama Warrior. Jonathan Majors’ presence as Damian shares a familiar spirit with Tom Hardy’s character from Warrior, only here Majors returns from prison instead of the war. Both movies concentrate on how men deal with trauma and emotion. Adonis and Damian shared an experience that children should not have to endure. This tragic backstory centers around the foster system and feels authentic to real life.
Damian harbors a ton of resentment for his loss of time, a consequence partially caused by Adonis. Damian is unlikeable but nevertheless sympathetic. Then there is Adonis Creed, a character who is trying to live up to his legacy and protect his family. Put them together in a ring, it’s a fight built on great character writing and stakes. Can they forgive each other? Or, will it be a massacre in the ring? The tension as “Killmonger” and “Kang” enter the ring is beautifully thick.
Creed III is a franchise best
Creed III is a franchise defibrillator with an adrenaline shot to the chest. The first entry in the Creed franchise was a pleasant surprise. The sequel was a decent follow-up but lacked the identical spark without director Ryan Coogler. Michael B. Jordan shows a lot of heart for the character and as a debut filmmaker here. It’s not saying anything new but somehow with his curiosity behind the camera, it feels fresh again.
The characters in the Creed franchise remain infectious. The performers — Jordan, Thompson, etc.– have matured in their roles, and the heart for Adonis’s story remains. Adding Jonathan Majors was just the right choice to round out the finishing uppercut. Creed III is filled with rich character writing, inventive boxing matches, and grudges. It is a top-notch franchise-best.
My rating for the film:
★★★★ / ♥♥♥♥
Creed III releases in theaters on Friday, March 3rd. Showtimes and more information are available on the official site. Are you planning to see Creed III this weekend? What did you think of the film? Let us know on Twitter or other social media!