Quick Synopsis: Adonis Creed retires from the boxing world, and is met by Damian, a childhood friend who has just got out of prison. Damian turns out to be a very good boxer, but also a massive prick.
On balance, I probably prefer the Creed franchise to the Rocky one. The first two Rocky films are great, no doubt about it. But the Creed films have something different to them. I think it’s because there is a real-life undercurrent to the whole thing. The character of Adonis Creed is trying to step out of the legacy of his father Apollo, whilst also wanting to pay respect to him. Similarly, the films want to stand out on their own away from the Rocky films, whilst also paying respect to them.
There was still the worry that this would be the film which lets the Creed franchise down, especially since it was being directed by Michael B. Jordan. He is a FANTASTIC actor, but this is his directorial debut, so there is always the risk that handing the reigns over to someone so inexperienced could backfire, especially when that person is the lead.
Thankfully, turns out that he’s pretty damn good. The first Creed film was notable for how it shot the fights, really making you feel like you were in there with them. This goes in a different direction, especially for the final fight. That scene is already one of the best I’ve seen this year. It doesn’t aim to make the fight realistic but uses more abstract visual language to show how it actually FEELS to be in there. For example, at one point, the crowd disappears and the fight takes place in an empty arena, it really highlights the personal nature of the feud between the two characters. Jordan has said he was heavily inspired by anime when it came to how to shoot the fight scenes, that makes a lot of sense. It’s a bold choice, but it pays off.
Another smart choice is casting Jonathan Majors, who was last seen in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. As daunting a presence as he was in Quantumania, it’s in Creed where he is more imposing. He looks like someone who can punch your head clear off your head, and carries himself as someone who would. It is kind of a weakness of the film that his point is too good. Most people would do what he did in that situation, so it’s hard to not only sympathise with him but to kind of root for him. I’m not asking him to come out and punch a child, but they could have done more to make him more of a villain. Wouldn’t even take something (Jonathan) major, his incarceration was kicked off by Adonis punching someone who abused him at a children’s home. All it would take is for Adonis to find out that Damian planned that person to be there to steal the money Adonis won from betting earlier. Or have Adonis’s mother Mary Anne point out horrible things Damian did to Adonis as a child (stealing his stuff, belittling him, stopping him from entering a boxing tournament, I dunno, something). He is still a prick, and his underhanded tactics in the fight to make you slightly hate him, but Damian is definitely too easy a character to root for.
Michael B Jordan continues to shine as Adonis, but he is slightly overshadowed by not only Jonathan Majors, but also Phylicia Rashad, who provides much of the emotion, kind of like Stallone did in the last one. On that note, I should point out that Stallone is not in Creed III. To be honest, he’s not missed. If Stallone was in this then it would be far too busy. There’s no space for the Rocky character, it also means that Adonis stands out more as a focused character. You’re not sitting there waiting for Rocky to turn up, you might not even notice he’s not there until you think about it.
Onto the downside: the pacing is a little off. It ends brilliantly, but the middle section seems rushed. Damian chases the title for a while, but we don’t get to see him as champion that much. It’s a shame as there is room for an interesting story about how the boxing world views him. We don’t really get how the boxing world reacts to someone winning the title in their first professional fight, and being much older than most professionals. There’s definitely space to tell this story too, it keeps going back to the incident at the grocery store when really we only needed to see it twice, once at the start, and then again later on for clarification with new context. It also wouldn’t be a bad thing for the opening to be a bit quicker. Those are minor issues, and it doesn’t stop Creed III from being a fantastic film, but it does stop it from being among the best I’ve ever seen.
So in summary, definitely go see this. I’m not sure where the franchise can go from here, but at the moment this is a damn fine conclusion to the saga.