After an amazing first movie (‘Creed’) and an underwhelming second (‘Creed II’), I was nervous going into ‘Creed III’. I’m a lifelong ‘Rocky’ fan and love the entire franchise, which has now stretched to 9 movies. Thankfully those initial fears were unfounded, because ‘Creed III’ is a fantastic boxing drama full of tension, action and genuine gravitas. Michael B. Jordan marks his directorial debut with this film, as well as starring in this third instalment of Adonis Creed’s life, and he delivers on all counts.
It’s been a few years, and Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is finally at ease with his life. Retiring as the undisputed champion after winning all of the belts, Adonis is now busy running his sports promotion company and gym alongside Duke (Wood Harris). He is also enjoying his family life, spending lots of quality time with his young daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) and his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson). She has built an impressive career producing music, now that her hearing problems have prevented her from continuing-on as a performer.
Adonis gets a surprise visitor one day outside his gym – Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors). A former friend from back when he was in foster care, Damian has spent the last few years behind bars. Now out, he is looking to restart his life and pick up where he left off. As a former Golden Gloves boxing champion in his youth, Damian feels like he is ready to step into the ring professionally. Adonis feels that he has a debt to pay to him, so offers Damian work as a sparring fighter. Before long, he wants a shot at the title. But will their chequered past come back to haunt them both.
‘Creed III’ is a big success thanks to learning from its past mistakes. The shortcomings of ‘Creed II’ were mostly all narratively led – by not utilising the natural drama of the situations that presented themselves. ‘Creed III’ doesn’t have this problem at all. It fully embraces all of the drama and tension that this story has to offer, delivering a gripping and emotionally-charged story that keeps you completely hooked to the edge of your seat.
Michael B. Jordan deserves huge praise for such an assured debut feature. He has clearly learnt from some of the best (Ryan Coogler for one), and has delivered a worthy chapter that fully warrants its place in the ‘Creed’ and ‘Rocky’ legacy timeline. This version of Adonis is a great representation of a young man who has learnt from his mistakes and who is finally embracing life, whilst also understanding what needs to be done to keep his legacy alive. Jordan is fantastic here, especially in directing the fight sequences. This is the most visceral in-ring boxing this franchise has ever delivered. And it stays this way for practically all of the fight too. You are right there in the ring next to some bone-crunching choreography that is exhilarating to watch. It feels very realistic for the most part, with Jordan and Majors really producing some amazing scenes here.
‘Creed III’ uses is a really engaging story that cleverly uses its characters for the good of the drama at hand. I’m so happy that Tessa Thompson has a worthy role in this film – Bianca has her own challenges in her narrative and uses her strength from her personal losses to help Adonis deal with his. Thompson is such a huge talent and to see her wasted in Marvel films lately is a real shame. It’s so good to see her back at the top in ‘Creed III’. Young Mila Davis-Kent does well as their daughter Amara and the three have a great dynamic onscreen. Phylicia Rashad adds some nice scenes to the film and keeps the family aspect of the legacy story of Apollo Creed very much alive. Wood Harris is always worth his scenes as the perennially stressed-out Tony ‘Little Duke’ Burton.
Being the man of the moment has a huge weight of expectation attached, but in Jonathan Majors, you feel like you are witnessing a superstar emerge in real time. He is truly excellent in ‘Creed III’ – exceeding the physicality that Jordan brings to his role and delivering genuine threat, menace, and unpredictability to their conflict. In the hands of a lesser actor (and a weaker writing team), the character of Damian could have become a cliché but it’s a testament to both that this character is so electric onscreen. Majors makes Damian feel like Mike Tyson in his prime – a beast that could explode at any moment, but crucially the story never allows that easy win to play out. Instead it fully utilises Major’s magnetic screen presence to steadily build up the tension exceptionally well leading to a great finale.
IMAX is the best way to experience ‘Creed III’. I have always loved the IMAX experience but this film really comes alive in this format. The fight sequences are breathtaking and fully exploit the broad canvas of IMAX to transport you ringside. The film also has a few leftfield visual turns – some work better than others – but they all pack a punch in IMAX, giving the viewer a knockout viewing experience that really adds to the drama of the spectacle.
‘Creed III’ is a brilliant boxing movie that knows how to land its shots. With a brilliant ensemble (including noticeable supporting turns from the likes of Spence Moore II, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Jose Benavidez, Selenis Leyva, Florian Munteanu and even the return of ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan himself Tony Bellew), this is a film that delivers on practically every level. Michael B. Jordan has done a tremendous job with this blockbuster movie, and I sincerely hope there’s another chapter ‘still left in the tank’.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Mila Davis-Kent, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Spence Moore II, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Jose Benavidez, Selenis Leyva, Florian Munteanu, Tony Bellew Director: Michael B. Jordan Writer: Keenan Coogler, Zach Baylin, Ryan Coogler Certificate: 12A Duration: 116 mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 3rd March 2023