Creed III Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Creed finally steps out from underneath Rocky’s shadow, proving that it is a spin-off that can stand solidly on its own two feet!
Genre: Drama / Sport
Director: Michael B. Jordan
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Mila Davis-Kent, Phylicia Rashad, José Benavidez Jr, Florian Monteanu & Tony Bellew.
Run Time: 116 min.
US Release: 03 March 2023
UK Release: 03 March 2023
German Release: 02 March 2023
With brilliant promotional artwork, as well as a trailer that blew the roof off the internet, the third chapter in the Creed saga has quickly risen to be one of my most anticipated movies of 2023. Thank god we did not need to wait long for the cinematic release! Marking Jordan’s return as the titular character, just like serving as his directorial debut, Creed III proves that it is not simply a Rocky legacy spin-off, it is a sports drama saga standing solidly on its own. Put on your boxing gloves and get ready to spar with my review!
Having dominated the boxing world, Adonis Creed is now thriving in his private life and career. When childhood friend Damian, a former boxing prodigy re-enters his life, having served a long prison sentence, the face-off between friends is more than just a fight.
While Creed II had a great sense of finality for both Rocky and Adonis, a third feature was announced in September 2019. The first script idea saw Donnie having to fight Clubber Lang’s son, though that would have been not only repetitive of the last film’s plot but also shown lazy writing. When the COVID pandemic hit, news about production quieted down, still, things were moving forward slowly. Michael B. Jordan was allowed to make his directorial debut with this project, but Stallone departed the project because he did not like the direction the script was taking.
Putting aside the squabble between Stalone plus longtime producer Irwin Winkler, I thought it was a wise move to keep on developing the story without Rocky. It not only allowed the character of Adonis Creed to step out of Sly's huge shadow, it also provided the ending of Creed II with a completely new meaning. Likewise, it was wise to tie the new boxing nemesis of the lead to his past, even if that came with its own set of issues. The narrative is very title-character-focused, seeing Donnie not only retire from boxing and embrace his inherited talent as a showman but become a caring family man in the process.
From a psychological perspective, it was great to see Adonis being pulled back into active boxing, to work out past issues in the ring; It is commonly known that former professional boxers feel like their only way to settle issues is in a match, as they don’t know how to deal with problems differently. Unfortunately, the surprising past of Adonis that is tightly wound around the character of Damian came out of nowhere, feeling manipulative.
Conversations explore the private past of the main persona, yet include a lot of boxing showmanship and music industry talks. L.A. slang is also used in dialogues.
Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis Creed, the son of boxing legacy Apollo Creed. Having finally accepted his legacy, Donnie retires from active fighting, to become a boxing promoter, running Delphi Boxing Academy with his former coach Little Duke. He also became a serious family man. When his childhood friend Duke suddenly appears, after having been released from prison, old traumas that Creed left buried in the past resurface.
I liked that aspect of the narrative, plus Jordan gives once again a great rendition of the character. That said, we as an audience are used to seeing him work out his issues through fighting matches. For the largest portion of the runtime, Donnie is wearing a suit making promotions. It felt a little jarring seeing a boxing movie, in which the titular persona is not boxing.
Jonathan Majors as Damian, former friend turned rival, steals the spotlight in every scene he is in! The man sells the frustration of the character, wanting his shot at the championship title, after having served his prime years in prison. The chemistry between him and Jordan is off the charts, making their old friendship, just like their building conflict, believable. The character's motivations are clear, and the audience can sympathise with him.
Tessa Thompson knocks it out of the park, as Adonis' wife Bianca. Though a supporting character, Bianca is a vital part of her husband's growth, serving as a stable rock in his life that keeps him grounded. Bianca has issues of her own, which parallel Damian’s shattered boxing dreams.
Technically, this sports drama is competently filmed, especially for a first-time director. The boxing matches keep using experimental techniques to make viewers feel as if they are in the ring with the athletes. This is especially true during the final match, in which the two adversaries suddenly find themselves alone, with no audience. Editing-wise, the usual set of training montages are implemented. That said, the cinematography is primarily responsible for some pacing issues, as it rushes through some plot aspects that would have deserved more time to breathe.
As far as effects go, green screens are being used in the boxing ring to project the far background of the arena, including its audience. While it looks acceptable, having filmed in an actual stadium might have given the whole feeling more depth. The visual effects used are passable, though not always qualitatively convincing.
The music contains a lot of hip-hop, rap, as well as R’n’B. The score is composed by Joseph Shirley, who previously worked with Ludwig Göransson in the previous two flicks.
Verdict: Generally, this third instalment in the Rocky spin-off series is better than the second feature, yet can’t reach the quality of the first movie! The plot is well elaborated, introducing an adversary that is tied to Donnie’s past, who unearths personal issues that our lead needs to deal with. It proves that Adonis' story can stand on its own two feet, and is not dependent on Balboa's presence. Having said that, it does contain pacing issues, specifically when trying to explore Damian’s and Creed’s past. This is mostly due to the cinematography not giving those elements enough importance. The performances are stellar, especially Jonathan Major as Damian is outstanding! The boxing matches are well-captured. All in all, Creed III isn’t perfect, however, I can overlook the flaws as the direction and the heart of the premise are solid. It deserves an 8.0 out of 10 - same rating I gave Creed II but this one has the edge over its predecessor.
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