Creed III – Review

Once in a while, someone takes such a wild swing and I’m so delighted every time. Just try stuff, you know?

When it was first announced that Michael B. Jordan was directing Creed III that was all I needed. The lackluster second entry in this sequel series was the product of Stallone taking the reins and forming it into his own creation (“let’s do what I did in MY movie” is not an idea, it’s laziness). Jordan has taken over completely, utilizing lessons learned from the multitude of directors he’s worked with, and brings the franchise back on track to pay off several things set up in the first film. Adonis Creed’s journey to the top is mostly shown in the introduction, leaving the rest of the film to create a comeback narrative that feels more akin to an anime than it does any modern sports film.

Adonis and his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), are living the high life. He’s retired, she’s moved into a producer role, and they have a ridiculously charming daughter named Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Adonis owns a gym and now works on training the next generation of fighters instead. The return of Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a friend that went to prison for something Adonis started, throws everything into upheaval as he starts gunning for Adonis’s life to make up for lost time. The champ will have to get back in the ring to keep his title, his pride, and his life. This time…it’s personal.

That may sound ridiculously cheesy and it definitely is, but what makes this one sing is how dedicated to its melodrama the whole thing is. I wasn’t kidding when I said this one feels like an anime, a targeted decision by the new director as a fan of the genre. It shouldn’t surprise that the guy who fought for his Black Panther costume to look like Vegeta’s would do this. What resulted is a film with some of the most dynamic boxing ever put on film and one of the most intense sports movies ever released, at times even dropping whole crowds away for fight scenes shot in an arena surrounded by black smoke as though it were in a separate dimension.

Also at work is Majors, who recently served as one of the only decent parts of Ant-Man: Quantumania and will most likely be lost to the Marvel machine. Here he’s less staid, more nervy and jumpy at all times, and desperate to prove himself as both an actor and a character. It’s a stunning performance and will serve as one of the best we see in the first half of the year. He’s equaled by Jordan, who has proven time and again to be one of our finest, and the two together are dynamite whether they’re chatting or throwing haymakers.

Action aside this is a moody piece. Its core concept revolves around family, both found and bound, and the resulting narrative spends most of its time in conversations and buildup that make the fights hit that much harder. Thompson’s role as the wife is more complicated this time, working onscreen with both Majors and Jordan to talk about adulthood, missed opportunities, and lost lives. It’s a dark path but one I think everyone of a certain age will connect with as we all try to find fulfillment and often miss the mark. It is, at its core a story about artistic endeavor and how being imprisoned or moving on will not kill that beast inside of you that longs for freedom.

I don’t think the ongoing story of Adonis Creed will be remembered as fondly as that of Rocky Balboa until a generation has passed, with those growing up idolizing him finally able to raise their children on these films. Creed III is a triumphant, if slightly messy, movie that I think displays the wonderment of a dramatic film in an age of VFX-driven stories.


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