A thrilling story is at the center of the third installment of the Creed franchise which has Michael B. Jordan stepping into the boxing ring again in addition to his directorial debut chair. With a new opponent that brings a new backstory to the Adonis character and some of the best boxing sequences ever filmed, Creed III is a solid sequel despite some rookie mistakes from a first-time director. Recommended!
Director Ryan Coogler and Sylvester Stallone struck gold both critically and financially with the reboot of the Rocky franchise several years ago with Creed that followed Apollo Creed's illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) leaving the life of finance to box. It played out genuinely sweet and evoked every emotional punch that the original Rocky film delivered. Creed II had both Rocky and Adonis back in the mix with former Russian opponent Ivan Drago and his son challenging Adonis Creed in hopes of Drago and his family not being shunned anymore by the Soviets. These characters continued to grow and still had those root emotions that the original film captured.
With Creed III and Michael B. Jordan behind the camera, there were a few beginner issues, but overall, this was a breath of fresh air with some great tonal shifts in the storyline that make Creed III a good watch. The movie begins with a win for Adonis but then cuts several years into the future where Adonis has turned into his father in the way that he now wears a suit and is running his marketing businesses rather than wearing the trunks and boxing gloves. His wife Tessa (Bianca Taylor) has enjoyed a very successful music career and their young daughter has total hearing loss, but that doesn't stop her from wanting to follow in her father's footsteps. One of the issues here is that the logistics and time don't always add up in their own narrative. Creed III suffers from the same elements where one scene to the next might fast forward months or longer without any smooth transition. Again, these are rookie mistakes, especially from someone who is playing both filmmaker and leading star duties at the same time.
With this third movie, Jordan switches the tone to a mild thriller with the addition of the new character Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors and no relation to Clubber Lang at the moment), a strong man who was just released from prison after serving more than a decade behind bars for something that took place with Adonis when they were kids. This allows more backstory to develop for Adonis when he was raised in the group homes before Apollo's wife Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) adopted him in Creed. Rashad's performance in this installment might just earn her a few awards nominations. But now, both Damian and Adonis are playing catch up and becoming friends again where Damian wants a shot at the boxing world, something he was on tap for prior to his conviction, and Adonis might be able to make it happen. It seems like a friendly partnership but Damian is hiding some terrifying emotions which turn this film into a thriller both inside and outside the ring until it all culminates with the two forces of nature colliding in the ring.
Coogler filmed his boxing scenes perfectly in Creed with Steven Caple Jr. following suit for Creed II. With Jordan at the helm, these boxing sequences were made for IMAX. Those intense jabs and uppercuts that follow the arms and hands connecting with the opponent's face are something that has never really been seen before. There is a new immersive feel to these scenes that places the audience inside the boxing ring rather than being ringside. It's intense and beautiful at the same time. Not only are those creative fixtures in place here, but Jordan's love for anime comes into play, especially during the final fight where the visual and emotional tones play a big factor in the best ways, which again is something that hasn't really been seen on this big a scale. Count these boxing sequences as a milestone in filmmaking that will be the new go-to standard.
Jordan and Bianca are fantastic as always here, but the spotlight is on Jonathan Majors. No matter if he's playing a villain or protagonist, there's some sort of charisma and genuine charm to him that causes everybody to root for him. He's just that great and with his character Damian, although his motives and actions are horrifying, there's meaning and redemption behind those fists and eyes. Rashad also gets a lot more time as Mary-Anne and will hopefully garner some awards because she really brings it full tilt for this latest entry.
Creed III has some issues, mostly being rookie problems from a first-time director doing double duty on set. But none of it ruins or destroys the film. The biggest complaint would be that there is zero mention of the Rocky Balboa character in regard to what he's up to or what even happened to him since the last film. It's okay that he's not in the movie physically, but the complete absence of any mention of him or even an image is unfortunate, considering these films are all about keeping with the continuity. Creed III is a solid sequel and is Recommended, specifically for Jonathan Majors and those dynamite boxing scenes. See it in IMAX if available.