Creed III, 2022.
Directed by Michael B. Jordan.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Phylicia Rashād, Wood Harris, Jose Benavidez, Florian Munteanu, Tony Bellew, Mila Davis-Kent, Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Selenis Leyva, Spence Moore II, Patrice Harris, Ann Najjar, and Terence Crawford.
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.
In Creed III, torches are being passed, and some have already done so. Star Michael B. Jordan has taken over directorial duties for Ryan Coogler while portraying Apollo Creed’s now-retired boxing champion son Adonis Creed, training the next generation. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky is nowhere to be seen, and one of the many subplots involves Creed training his deaf child daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) how to throw some punches in the ring, wildly ignoring singer-turned-music producer wife Bianca’s (Tessa Thompson) wisdom that fighting is not the solution to the bullying she faces.
Then there is the bulk of the movie, which concerns Adonis’ childhood friend Damien Anderson (Jonathan Majors amid a mainstream breakout between this and joining the MCU), having met inside one of the former’s group homes before being taken back in by his mother (Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashād) following the death of Apollo Creed in the ring (which takes place in Rocky IV.) Damien had always been the boxer between the two, with Donnie accompanying him to underground fights, supporting his dreams of being heavyweight champion one day. One night, on the way home after a fight, Adonis comes across a man outside a liquor store that he violently pounces on at first sight, asking, “do you remember who I am.”
It’s not initially made known who the man is or what happened, but it’s easy enough to deduce that when the police got involved, Damien took the fall and went to prison. Roughly 20 years later, he is free and immediately tracks down Adonis seeking a path to become a professional boxer. Despite all opposing thoughts, Donnie feels as if he owes it to Damien and offers to make him a sparring partner for the current world champion, who was so reckless even during noncompetition that no one wants to step in the ring with him anymore.
There are assuredly intriguing ideas in Creed III, such as how men involved in an inherently violent work bottle up their emotions about the past or take the wrong road to achieve peace. Meanwhile, Jonathan Majors delivers another intense performance, this time as someone not only obsessed with a goal but visibly ticked off and dripping with jealousy behind the friendship act he puts on that the man he went to jail for went on to take the boxing world by storm. In his eyes, that should be him, and Jonathan Majors can do more with his eyes than most actors can do with fully fleshed-out performances on the page (there are shots of each participant’s eyes before the bell rings, and unsurprisingly, Damien’s look somewhere between dead and obsession.)
Unfortunately, while Michael B. Jordan has an eye for filming the fights themselves (specifically the final one that drifts off into something innovative and emotional that’s almost worth the price of admission alone), he struggles to elevate the drama, get the pacing right, or convey the plot convincingly (also a problem by the script written by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin.) It’s also worth noting that Ryan Coogler does have a story credit, which makes sense since the general plot should be a knockout on paper, especially having cast aside the Rocky drama.
For whatever reason, Creed III decides to recycle plot points anyway, rushing everything from Damien’s rise to boxing prominence, his sudden cockiness, to Donnie’s announcement of returning for one last fight. There’s a grounded and tortured friendship to explore here, but all Creed III turns it into something that resembles a bad WWE soap opera rather than a compelling drama. Another subplot, including the reasoning behind an injured fighter, is also woven into the plot terribly.
One gets the sense that while Michael B. Jordan remains fantastic in the role of Donnie and understands how to stage decent action, he lacks the finesse to tell and drive home drama believably. Perhaps most frustrating is that the film abruptly drops its message of violence not being the answer, only for violence to be the answer.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com