Creed III


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Creed III
"As a first-time director, Jordan acquits himself well."

A third Creed film, and one supposes, by extension, a ninth Rocky picture. Save that, but for a single mention about 50 minutes in, there's nothing of Stallone's role which punched life into this franchise about 50 years ago.

That's not a weakness. Indeed, there are several strong moments in a film that similarly represent an actor's directorial debut. Michael B Jordan returns as Adonis/Donny/Dee Creed, as multihyphenate behind as in front of the camera. He's not the only one returning. Most every boxer from the earlier Creeds makes an appearance, as do Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad as the two Mrs Creeds. They are joined by another strong woman in Adonis' life, Amara. A daughter, more than supported in a loving family. That support includes extensive communication in American Sign Language, as the hearing difficulties that have been a plot point across the films have been inherited.

Copy picture

They are supplemented with subtitles, important in a film that also makes use of them for the Spanish dialogue of another important party to the pugilism. They are consistent, colour-coded, and quality. They are one of a number of visual flourishes that add to a visual language for the Creed sequence established by previous directors Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr. In interview Jordan has mentioned animé influence, and there's definitely something in that. While there's precedent for stadium fights and fancy introductions, some of the visual styling, fighting lines, and a dream-like interlude in the middle of one bout all recall more animated fare.

There are many call-backs to the franchise and its roots. Sequences are taken from Creeds I and II. There are sequences from the Rocky films too. Some transposed from Philadelphia to LA, but less triumphant for it. The many elements returning include a primary conceit of these sorts of heroes' journeys, the mirror. Here it's 'Diamond' Damian Anderson, introduced in an opening sequence set (and credibly soundtracked) in the early 2000s. The first Creed opened in a similar way, but here Mama Creed isn't around to save the day.

In a film about fighting it's a confrontation with significant ramifications. High among them that Dame has missed out on a life. It's somewhat amusing that Jonathan Majors, a Marvel alum like Michael B Jordan, is spending his comic book movies exploring alternate realities and here much of the same. The title he's after is World Heavyweight, not a sobriquet like 'The Conqueror', but he is no less compelling an antagonist where the special effects budget is smaller.

Not non-zero, here another stadium fight but where the first had Everton's Goodison Park we have the 'crypto dot com arena', home of the Lakers and, among others, the Kings. It's a crowning glory, but a complex one, and it's an example of product placement in a film full of them. Beyond the Rolls Royce that's replaced a vintage mustang, rapper-favoured cognac Hennessy gets a fair few mentions, and you'd probably notice Creed was dressed by Ralph Lauren without a hint the size of the side of a building.

Shorter than the other two, and by about 20 minutes, it clips along at a fair pace. Some of that pace is a consequence of conspiracy. Plots are always made more efficient when there's a plotter behind them. The most important thing to remember though is that whomever wins isn't necessarily down to the judges' decision, whether it was at the squared circle or the state court.

Cinema loves the sweet science, its visual simplicity and the various metaphors of chess and challenge. Much as the Bat-Man's rogues' gallery are similarly born of tragedy and Spider-Man's antagonists' alley is filled with workplace accidents, Creed (as Rocky before him) faces foes whose fates are parallel. None more so than Damien, a fellow traveller until a single incident.

While both Cooglers (Ryan and Keenan) contribute to script, so does Zach Braylin who penned (as début) King Richard. Familial sporting legacies are bound up in the Creed mythos, and the impact of someone without one is not without power. As a first-time director, Jordan acquits himself well. There are some striking moments, pun intended, in the fight scenes, but long shadows cast by decisions and the intimacies of families found and forged are well constructed too.

It does something rare for a film with a history as involved as this and serves quite well not just as an introduction but as a film itself. Flashbacks and clips and the like draw from a huge amount of previous work, but it gets itself up and stands on its own two feet. Many of its references are about reversal, not rehearsal. A rewatch before seeing this one might help you grab some of the call-backs, and potentially lament the absence of figures like Stallone and Lundgren, but you've other options to see them and the film (and its plot both) are about personal achievement. Variously a Hollywood story, on this evidence Jordan has one here himself.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2023
Share this with others on...
Creed III packshot
Boxer Adonis has been thriving in both his career and family life, but when a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces, the face-off is more than just a fight.
Amazon link

Director: Michael B Jordan

Writer: Keenan Coogler, Zach Baylin, Ryan Coogler

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

Year: 2023

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Black Panther
The Boxer
The Pyramid Texts