Creed III – Film Review
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Mila Davis-Kent, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad
Director: Michael B. Jordan
Synopsis: After a successful boxing career, Adonis Creed (Jordan) faces a new challenge when a former childhood friend and boxing prodigy (Majors) resurfaces…
Review: To follow in the footsteps of a cinematic icon like Rocky Balboa is far from an easy feat. Yet, with its superb blend of nostalgia, pulsating fight scenes and an unwavering determination for its lead character to honour the legacy of Apollo Creed, as well as forging his own, this is precisely what the spin-off to the Rocky franchise accomplished when its first film fought its way into cinemas to critical acclaim. With its sequel, it continued along this path by adding some deeply personal stakes for both its lead character and his coach. It might have seemed unthinkable the third film would not feature the iconic character of Rocky in any capacity. Yet even without the involvement of Sly Stallone, it has proved it has plenty of fight left in the tank.
Adonis Creed has spent years enjoying a successful boxing career. However, he has now reached a point where he has chosen to retire as a professional fighter and transfer to the role of a coach/promoter and the owner of a gym training the next generation of fighters. On top of this, Adonis also has family responsibilities parenting his daughter Amara (Davis-Kent) with his wife Bianca (Thompson). However, when a former childhood friend Damian Anderson (Majors) comes back into Adonis’s life after spending 18 years in prison, he wants his chance to become a professional fighter and make up for the time he lost while serving his sentence. Initially offering his former friend a chance to rehabilitate and train, Adonis is forced to confront his past relationship with Damian when it becomes clear Damian’s aspirations threaten to challenge the legacy Adonis worked so hard to build.
The script by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, working from a story co-written with Ryan Coogler, continues to honour the theme beating at the heart of these films: legacy. The boxing aspect unquestionably plays a part in the films, but the emphasis is first and foremost on these characters and their relationships with those closest to them and the legacies they strive to build. For Adonis, he may have enjoyed a phenomenal career as a pro boxer, but the question about legacy becomes even more prescient since Adonis has hung up his gloves. With a daughter to now take care of, given the fierceness and brutality of the sport, the film explores what kind of effect will his boxing career have on her as she grows up and handles the challenges of life. A dilemma which causes tension between Adonis and Bianca. However, there are also some extremely heart-warming moments of the trio as a family, with Bianca also getting much more screen time as she is also having to balance her career and her parental responsibilities.
Yet, despite those heartwarming moments, the crunch of the film’s conflict lies in the relationship between Adonis and Damian. Through a flashback sequence, the relationship between the young Adonis and Damian is established and how events in the past have shaped the men they have become. Fast forward to the present day, and it is fair to say the relationship is complicated. There is initially respect between the two men, but it doesn’t take long for this respect to erode as Damian’s aspirations put him and Adonis on a direct collision course, which leads to an enthralling showdown. He’s certainly the man of the moment given his status as the MCU’s next big bad, and Jonathan Majors delivers a sensational performance as Damian effortlessly combing the intense physicality of the fight scenes with the more restrained emotional moments between these two friends-turned-rivals.
Taking the directorial gloves from Coogler and Steven Caple Jr in his directorial debut, Jordan follows in the footsteps of his predecessors as he puts his own stamp on the film’s fight scenes, proving his talent both in front of and behind the camera. Is there anything this man cannot do? He has made no secret of his love of anime and those influences come through in the fight scenes with intense close-ups of the fighters’ facial expressions, and slow motion before a significant blow is about to be landed. It is an effective combination and adds to the intense physicality of the fight scenes, which particularly comes through when viewed on the big screen. The Creed franchise had a lot to live up to, but through three excellent films which rarely put a foot wrong, it has honoured the legacy of the icon of Rocky Balboa and has given its star to launch himself as one of Hollywood’s newest and most exciting young directors.