Michael B Jordan
Shortly after the events of Creed II, Adonis Creed [Jordan] retires from boxing, having been crowned the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Adjacent to the limelight, he runs his own gym and oversees the training of his protégé Felix Chavez. Frustratingly, few people can go the distance with Chavez and Creed has difficulty booking major prizefights. That is, until a figure from his past steps back into his life: Damien Anderson [Majors]. Dame was Creed’s childhood friend, as well as boxing champion in his own right, but was arrested protecting Adonis in a fight, and spent nearly twenty years in prison. Seeing an opportunity to reconnect and solve his championship bout issues, Adonis gives Damien a chance in the ring. But it quickly transpires that the friend Creed once knew is not the same as the angry reckless man before him, and Adonis’ success starts to unravel.
Aside from Rocky V killing the series for 15 years, the Rocky/Creed films have now gone nine rounds and produced some of the best sports films consistently for decades. But this is the first instalment where Sylvester Stallone’s character is absent. And, in truth, this allows Jordan and his character to fully step out from the franchise shadow and truly be its own thing.
And with Jordan stepping behind the camera, this feature becomes a surprisingly unique and dynamic spectacles, incorporating anime influences for some compelling direction and choreography. Not to mention a score with a prominent and powerful presence; key examples being the theme, “Damien’s Plan,” which feels like a darker alternate to the classic upbeat horns of the Rocky theme. As well as some real operatic triumphant tones for Creed’s return to the ring. All of which resonates with significant heart and personality, channelling earned themes of friendship, rivalry, bitterness, and resentment, thanks to spending the right amount of time building and fleshing out these characters before the fight.
Speaking of which, Jordan and Majors are blockbuster actors at the top of their game, and it’s only fitting that these two titans squaring up against one another has all the emotional and physical prowess and impact that audiences want to see. Yes, there’s the physicality and haymakers that hit with speed and ferocity, but there’s also so much drama for the two leads to get their teeth into. On the one hand we have Creed teaching his daughter that boxing isn’t about violence, it’s an exercise in timing, focus and control. While it’s apparent that Damien clearly never learned or understood that lesson. But rather than simply pitching Damien as an adversary, there’s a personal connection that cuts deep. And by taking the underdog story – essentially the heart of this entire franchise – and presenting it as an elevation of someone with the wrong motivation and intention, makes for very interesting storytelling.
All that said, we have to acknowledge this is still a boxing narrative, and the franchise’s ninth film in nearly half a century. Subsequently, there are a few inescapable cliche holdovers which diminish efforts somewhat. The principal one being Adonis’ relationship with his mother. To explain, there is an entire subplot surrounding Creed’s mother. In the last two movies, we’ve established the importance of this woman in his life and the impression of his father that came with it. But this movie addresses her advancing years, waning health, and the steps she took to protect her son from sinking into a life of crime. I’m not really opposed to this whole angle but its conclusion felt incredibly rushed, and thus needlessly tacked on.
In truth, Creed 3 may possibly be the most electric and creatively directed Rocky film, (maybe even the most visually interesting boxing movie since Raging Bull) utilising every camera and audio trick to represent the feeling of the fight as much as the power and speed of the combat itself. But underneath all the bravado and machismo, is this film’s true power: a grounded story about two men struggling with the humility and patience needed to check their emotions. And for that alone, it’s worth the admission fee.
03 March 2023
The Scene To Look Out For:
There are only really three fights in this release, but each one has its own presence and personality. That said, what ends up overshadowing them all, is the training montage. The ideal combination of grit, determination, and motivation paired with a hearty, emotive musical score. Bringing into juxtaposition Damien’s aggressive sparring, albeit ultimately alone, and Creed training with former adversary Viktor Drago, yet feeling over the hill as he confronts his demons.
Tessa Thompson’s Bianca is still her own character and has a life outside of the tropey girlfriend/wife in a boxing movie. And although she doesn’t claw her way much further, at least we are given an honest depiction of a woman desperately trying to connect with a loving husband, who, despite all his positive traits, remains a little inaccessible. Because regardless of her own successes, she struggles to penetrate Creed’s repression of his past. Which serves to highlight that no matter how high he has climbed, Adonis still hasn’t been able to open up to those closest to him about the darkest parts of his childhood. And without that transparency, he cannot grow and his daughter won’t have the positive role she needs.
“He’s telling you who he is.. right? Believe him.”
In A Few Words:
“Another sublime entry in what should be a very tired franchise, with Jordan illustrating just how much stamina it has to keep running.”
Total Score: 4/5