Movie Review: ‘Creed III’

by | Mar 5, 2023 | Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Review by James Lindorf

After a twenty-year career in front of the camera, Michael B. Jordan is ready to make his directorial debut. Helming the third entry in his largest franchise means Jordan pulls double duty starring alongside series regulars Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Wood Harris. Grudges run deep, and punches will fly when Adonis steps back into the ring against fellow MCU villain and rising star Jonathan Majors for “Creed III,” available in theaters everywhere.

A first-time director behind the wheel of the latest entry in a beloved franchise would generally cause a lot of stress for fans and the director. On the one hand, the director is also the leader of a core group of castmates returning for the third time, and it’s the 9th entry in the series, so the pressure seems manageable. On the other hand, this is the most expensive installment in the franchise and the first to remove the star of the previous eight films. It is a bold strategy that is mostly successful. Stallone’s Rocky is missed but would have been lost in this story about Adonis and his demons.

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) dominated the boxing world, retiring as the first unified champion in over 20 years. Since leaving the ring, Adonis has thrived as a promoter, husband, and father. But the good times only last so long before something buried in Creed’s past bubbles up to the surface. Former childhood friend and boxing prodigy Damian (Jonathan Majors) is fresh out of jail and hungry to get his life back on track. With dreams of Olympic gold and world title belts, dominating the boxing world was the only plan Damian ever had and that goal leads him to Adonis’ door.

Adonis is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of character. Whenever he wants to do something for himself, his past rears its head. It is usually something connected to his broken relationship with Apollo that he must learn to embrace or overcome. “Creed III” at least makes the monster from the past directly related to Adonis and his choices. For that, it is the most original Creed entry even if it is told with story beats we are very familiar with. There are elements of “Rocky III,” Rocky V,” and the first two Creed films, with the significant difference being Majors’ presence. He has almost as much charisma as Apollo and is more ominous than Clubber Lang, that and the way he entwines himself with the Creed household make him the best and most dangerous opponent in the Rocky universe.

“Creed III” follows Adonis, the promoter, as he sets up his protégé Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) for his next title defense and works the sponsors for a huge payday. He invites Damian to the gym to get some time as a sparring partner while he knocks the rust off his boxing skills. When his opponent is injured just weeks before the fight, Damian asks for the chance at the title. Guilt and desperation eventually lead Adonis to agree to the bold request. A decision he would ultimately regret and will have to get back into the ring to atone for.

The record budget for the franchise came in at a surprising 65 million dollars. The bulk of the money went to three areas of production. Actor salaries, locations, the required set dressing, and CGI. CGI doesn’t typically play a prominent role in sports films. Primarily used on crowds and cleaning up some scenes. It does fulfill those tasks, and not in a polished way. Everything beyond the front row of the crowds was created on a computer, and it never looked realistic. The crowd and occasionally the fighters look like video game footage. A high-quality video game but fake enough to be distracting if you pay too much attention.

The CGI was also used to enhance the fights; at least, that is how Jordan would refer to it. He uses CGI to create an effect popular in many Anime and Kung Fu movies. In the midst of a grand battle, characters can slow down the action, and their fights can transcend the physical plane to be something more, a clash of wills, a battle of the souls. It is far from your standard Stallone-style Rocky fight scene, with the blood, bruises, and eyes swollen shut. Instead, Jordan seems to believe if you can overpower your opponent mentally, they will leave an opening for you to win the fight without anyone getting too beat up.

This change isn’t the only one Jordan made. Most choices are insignificant and related to the style and presentation, and most are dropped. The most notable of which is the color palette and grittiness used when we are alone with Damian. It was a great visual display of their differences and Damian’s true nature but it only lasted for one scene. A more experienced director confident in their tone and style would have fixed that, but in a sea of decisions, it was a rogue wave that Jordan lost track of; thankfully, it is far from capable of sinking this ship.

There has been no announcement yet, but this will most likely be the last movie in the Creed series and the end of the Rocky franchise. The decision to have a time jump removes a lot of options for future films. Plus, unlike the Rocky movies, the story of Creed has not evolved beyond who Adonis has to fight. Jordan is again perfect as Adonis but Johnathon Majors and steals every scene he is in. His unique fighting style is entertaining, but it is the way he can switch from the silly arrested development behavior he uses to cover his malice and the dirty fighting brutality that makes him a step beyond everyone else.

Overall “Creed III” is an easily recommendable film to enjoy in the moment, assuming you can get past the third-rate CGI and are not exhausted by the repeated story elements. Ultimately, “Creed III” gets a 3 out of 5 mainly for the impressive performances. It could have been higher, but rushing the Damian story that could have easily been two films, the bad CGI and iffy visual choices make it the weakest of the Creed films.

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama
Director: Michael B. Jordan
Producer: William Chartoff, Ryan Coogler, Jonathan Glickman, Michael B. Jordan, Elizabeth Raposo, Sylvester Stallone, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler
Writer: Keenan Coogler, Zach Baylin
Release Date: March 3rd, 2023
Runtime: 1h 56m
Distributor: United Artists Releasing