Creed III features Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed once more jumping into the ring for another boxing match. What makes this entry notably different is how free it feels from the Rocky lore. There’s no laborious lamenting of the past with constant talks of the punch marks left by Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.
No, this Creed movie feels entirely about this character and his career in boxing. Maybe it’s the lack of Sylvester Stallone, or maybe it’s that Jordan takes on directing duties. Whichever primary reason, the film is all the better for feeling more whole and not just Rocky 2.0.
With the titular Adonis Creed (Jordan) being much older, he can now have his tale of legacy and pathos. As the fighter steps away from the ring, he takes time to appreciate his wife and child. He also thinks back to his violent childhood.
His old friend Dame (Johnathan Majors) has just been released from prison. They had a history that went way back to their early days of boxing. Feeling responsible for abandoning his friend, Creed gives his old friend a new shot at his dreams of fighting professionally.
A Perfect Rival
While Dame is initially grateful for Adonis’s help, he’s also grown more aggressive and egotistical with his dreams. When Dame gets a chance to prove himself in the ring, the friend turns enemy. His bitterness over Creed’s success has transformed him into the ultimate boxing bully.
Majors sells this performance so well with his intimidating demeanor. He goes from being a stoic force of the muscle to a bragging mass of terror. He’s also just a beast of an actor that one could easily believe he is knocking somebody’s teeth out.
It helps that the character is written as a more significant threat to Creed than just taking his title. The childhood connection makes their grand showdown about more than just pride and money. There’s a reconciliation due for the both of them, as this battle has brewed over a long-running silence.
It was fascinating to watch the progression of Adonis going from being a championship boxer to a boxing manager. Watching his focus on training new fighters at the gym and tending to his family at home are pleasing pieces of growth. It also makes his break from retirement all the more inspiring.
Yet the many asides for his life feel woefully explored. His wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) has a music-producing career, and his daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) is a deaf girl who wants to fight bullies. While these characters play into Creed’s thematic build-up, they also feel like mere stepping stones and busy work leading into the big fight.
Michael B. Jordan has taken over as director for this film, and it shines relatively bright under his leadership. Every fight feels intense and brutal with the right amount of cuts and slow motion. The staging packs an extra punch for how hard Jordan centers on the brutality of it all, especially for Dame’s fights.
For anime fans, take note that Jordan brought up how Creed III’s fights were inspired by shonen anime. Specifically, he cited Naruto and Dragon Ball Z as heavy influences. The many moments of slams and anguish in the ring highlight that influence well.
Major credit must be paid to the finale for a stunning environmental change. The stadium drops out during the middle of the fight to make this battle more personal. It is an unforgettable moment to watch Jordan and Majors slugging it out to an empty stadium while they growl at each other.
The New Champ
Creed III is free of references to Rocky and keeps the Apollo talk minimal, given that the past two films have exhausted that legacy. That being said, there are still a lot of the classic Rocky tropes present. This includes everything from being drawn back into the ring to coming to terms with the past to the obligatory training montage with motivational music.
While these many hallmarks bring back the boxing franchise to its roots, they also run with them independently. It never feels like Adonis is trying to match up to the greats or repeating the past. It’s a legacy he forges all his own, due in no small part to Jordan’s breathtaking direction.
Conclusion: Creed III
The third Creed film has more grit and emotion than the previous entry, proving this saga has legs. More importantly, it proves that the story of Adonis Creed is in great hands when divorced from Rocky relations. It’s precisely the type of blood-pumping excitement and meaningful storytelling that this film is a highlight of the boxing movie genre, let alone Creed as a film series.
Did you see Creed III in the theater? What did you think of it? Was it better or worse than Creed II? Let us know in the comments below.
Creed III is currently playing in movie theaters everywhere.