Creed III (2023)

“I need you to let go of your fear. Let go of the guilt. Let go of whatever was and walk into what is.”

Very few films have the staying power to turn into a franchise, let alone be 9 entries deep and still have the potential to keep going. Unlike the few that come to mind when talking about longevity behind one central character, Creed 3 sheds its Rocky trunks to put the burden squarely on its own spin-off shoulders. In fact, the lack of Sylvester Stallone’s Balboa in Creed 3 is grossly noticeable and quite jarring from the beginning – I half expected him to pop up in a flashback to offer words of wisdom when they’re needed most but he just never comes. But getting past the point that Rocky has moved north to be with his family and won’t show up, the transition is fully complete.

This is a Creed franchise now.

Much of that is apparent from the lack of Stallone’s involvement, only serving as one of the films producer’s and having Rocky’s name said aloud here and there but also the passing of the torch from Ryan Coogler who directed the first film to Michael B. Jordan, stepping into the ring, making his directorial debut. What better film for Jordan to sink his teeth into as a director then the one franchise he had a hand in rejuvenating in 2015 with Creed. And in the director chair, Jordan is in full control of the action and pacing, in front and behind the camera, just like Stallone, who directed himself in 4 of the 9 films.

In keeping with the timeline of events, Creed 3 picks up 7 years after 2. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) has hung up his gloves after defeating his old rival and is now full time owner of Delphi Boxing Academy along with coach Little Duke (Wood Harris). Bianca (Tessa Thompson) has transformed into becoming the owner of her own record label and fully committing herself as a producer due to her declining hearing. Both Adonis and Bianca have earned what they deserve while still remaining true to what got them to their current points.

What’s a beloved boxing franchise without a villainous heel to match up against? 3 years after retiring from the ring, Adonis runs into an old associate he once called a friend named Damian (Jonathan Majors) whom Donnie invites to train at Delphi along with helping with finances. Dame who was once the top amateur boxer in Los Angeles, has just been released from an 18 year prison sentence that serves as the backdrop for Adonis and Damian’s trajectory to squaring off in the ring.

Out of the Creed trilogy, 3 instantly becomes the most personal, giving Adonis a mountain to overcome that he hasn’t been tested with before. Opening in the past on a younger, 15 year old Adonis (Thaddeus J. Mixon) and an 18 year old Damian (Spence Moore II), the personal touch is established quickly with Damian posing a bigger threat than Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) who returns from the second film, playing a significant role in Donnie’s life, following the trope of rivals turning into friends. On a story conceived by Ryan Coogler, Keenan Coogler, and Zach Baylin and a screenplay written by the latter 2, there are stakes not only in the sport of boxing but to everything Adonis has built for himself over the course of his career.

Stepping into yet another villainous role, Jonathan Majors poses a dangerous threat. To the well established world of the Rocky / Creed universe, Majors is a tsunami, a pit-bull off the leash, with a Thor level physique. Not that Jordan himself looks out of shoe or lost a step – these are two men who fully commit to the extensive and exhaustive training routines. Out of Creed 3 and the previous months Quantumania, Damian Anderson is given more time and trust to develop into a formidable villain with a proper heel turn. As dangerous and charismatic as Majors is, somehow the actor who is popping up more frequently than ever is dwarfed by Bianca and Donnie’s kid Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Fully deaf, Coogler and Baylin continue to adapt the spin-off franchise to include Amara as a significant part of the script using ASL during impactful moments in the narrative. But really Davis-Kent is a ray of sunshine in her big screen debut, showing off her natural instincts among the veteran talent that surrounds her.

As a first time director, Michael B. Jordan looks completely comfortable in the more prominent role. The fight scenes in particular are given an injection of anime influence which becomes easy enough to spot if on the lookout for it. Every jab, cross, body shot and uppercut lands with enough force to knock the wind out of you – the choreography has increased in quality and brutality with each installment but it’s Jordan’s anime influence that sets Creed 3 apart from the rest. Shots to the midsection that start in real time only to end in slow motion to highlight the damage make Jordan a director to watch and with the tease of possible sequels, there is no better person suited to continue Adonis and Bianca’s story.

Creed 3 takes in what came before it to complete a strong, complex narrative based trilogy in a way that revitalized a stagnant franchise. With plenty of drama balanced with the action there were times I wanted more risk taking and Coogler and Baylin heard my inner thoughts. The men, especially Dame and Donnie come off as the typical closed off man with no feelings but toward the end, the gruff exterior fades and emotions pour out, giving a fuller scope of depth to their complexities as friends and rivals. Composer Joseph Shirley steps in for Ludwig Göransson to bring an adrenaline pumping score that also serenades during the quieter moments with Göransson’s themes blended in to recapture the magic that sets Rocky and Creed apart. From the opening moments to the bitter rivalry to the flashy, gritty training montage and the stellar, personal final showdown, Michael B. Jordan proves that the Creed name holds as much weight as Rocky does.

Screenplay By: Keenan Coogler & Zach Baylin

Story By: Ryan Coogler, Keenan Coogler & Zach Baylin

Directed By: Michael B. Jordan

Music By: Joseph Shirley

Cinematography: Kramer Morgenthau

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent

Edited By: Tyler Nelson & Jessica Baclesse

Release Date: March 3, 2023

Running Time: 1 Hour 56 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2 responses to “Creed III (2023)”

  1. I love your review on Creed III !!
    I saw Creed III two times over the weekend because of how solid it delivers. . . and the direction/storyline of the whole thing was epic!

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