Film Reviews

Creed III – Film Review

Adonis Creed’s career has whipped by in a heartbeat. 2015’s Creed saw Adonis enter the boxing profession in his late-20s, giving up his white collar career, and looking with to emulate his father, with the help of the legendary Rocky Balboa. Now, in 2023, we see Adonis long retired and promoting the next generation of Champions.

As is common to this series of films, the timeline is a little screwy. Creed II was released in late-2018, where Adonis became a father and won a title. In the timeline presented here, he unified the belts and retired in 2017, after a rematch against Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Also, his hearing-impaired daughter looks closer to eight years old than three or four. Anyhow, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is retired and managing others, as is his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), whose hearing loss has led to her working in a music production role. Creed continues to work with trainer Tony Evers (Wood Green) and, together they look after the interests of new World Heavyweight Champion, Felix Chavez (José Benavidez Jr).

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Before present day events we see a short prologue set in 2002, where a teenage Adonis sneaks out of the home he shares with adopted mother, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), in order to go with his friend Damian ‘Dame’ Anderson (Jonathan Majors as an adult, Spence Moore II as the teenage version) to a Golden Gloves amateur boxing event, where Dame competes, successfully. On the way home, Donnie sees the man who abused them at the children’s home in which they met and attacks him in revenge. Pulling a gun on the man, Dame is arrested, not to be released for 18 years.

Photo credit: Eli Ade © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

With Mary Anne keeping correspondence from Dame away from Adonis, the former is released having felt somewhat abandoned by his childhood friend. Still wanting a shot at the title in his late-30s, Anderson is willing to do anything to hurt his former friend in order to attain the life that he believes Donnie took from him. Goaded out of retirement to face the raw, talented, but brutal ex-con, Donnie risks his health and marriage to keep control of his life and former titles away from an extremely dangerous man.

We had hoped that the last entry in this series would be just that. Rocky made peace with his son, Adonis made peace with his father’s legacy, and built a family of his own. In addition, the one last piece of unfinished business – Rocky’s guilt over the death of his friend Apollo – was put to bed. We are left now with a new entry that has no Sylvester Stallone (see here for more details on his argument with the owners of the rights to this series), a leading man that has fast become old (in boxing terms), leading a series that already felt complete.

Photo credit: Ser Baffo © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

In the event, some of those worries are justified. We have a retcon here to give Donnie a childhood beef, we see more tragedy in his private life that mirrors the spell where Rocky seemed to lose someone in every film, and we go over old ground, with training going badly… until it is not. In all honesty, over nine films it has become almost impossible to avoid them repeating themselves. We have not heard of Anderson, so the rivalry and its execution needs to happen fast, and Donnie’s daughter was a newborn last time out, so we have little attachment to this family. Added to this, Jordan is a first-time director, something which shows in a main bout that is just trying too hard stylistically – yes, we get it Michael, you have ideas!

So, it is a sizeable downgrade from the first two entries in the Creed sub-series, and it would probably fall somewhere around the halfway mark in any rankings of the nine in total. This still leaves an engaging, tight film. Jonathan Majors is a superstar waiting to happen. He can do anything. Jacked-up physically, he talks with a gentle menace that evokes a young Tyson (Mike, not Fury).

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The fights are brutal, and the story interesting, it is just compromised by someone fighting for a title on their pro debut, and the audience having to be convinced that would ever be a contest. By the way, that did happen once, and it was predictably one-sided. In short, there really are not any unwatchable films in this series. They always have heart, are produced competently, and engage from the off. We must be at the end, however; the series has nothing new to say, and this attempt to go darker is only a qualified success, as we are seeing beats we have now been seeing for 47 years. At least MGM did not drop the ball completely here – this is very enjoyable – but, we are done. Thank you for nearly five outstanding decades.

Creed III is out now at cinemas.

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