Creed III is a knockout directorial debut for Michael B. Jordan
The threequel trend of the 2023 movie season continues with Creed III from MGM/United Artists. Franchise star Michael B. Jordan returns to the titular role and makes his directing debut with the film. Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin handle the screenplay from a story pitch by Coogler and his brother Ryan.
After dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed is thriving in his retirement and family life. He's now married to music success Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and is raising their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). He also has a built commodore with his trainer Lil Duke (Wood Harris) and regularly visits Duke's gym to inspire young boxers.
Things take an unexpected turn when Damian (Johnthan Majors), a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, resurfaces after serving time in prison. There's a secret from Adonis's past that Damian is a big part of, so naturally, Credd feels that he owes him. However, Creed underestimates how much rage is brewing inside Damian, who is eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring.
A domino effect occurs in true boxing movie fashion, leading to a climactic battle between Damian and Creed. However, this face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian, a fighter who has nothing to lose.
It's no secret that the law of diminishing returns often applies to threequels. Successful franchises such as Beverly Hills Cop, The Hangover, Scream, Star Wars, and Rush Hour all fell victim to what some moviegoers dub the threequel curse. While Thankfully, Jordan and his crew know the tropes to hit, ensuring that Creed III delivers the goods audiences want to see.
Before I delve into my review, I'll address the elephant room of Stallone's iconic character Rocky Balboa being absent from the film. I didn't miss his character, and Creed III steps away from his shadow. After Creed II, Rocky's arc was full circle, and there was no need for him to appear in Creed III besides fan service.
Jordan opens the threequel introducing us to a young Creed (Thaddeus J. Mixon) and Dame (Spence Moore III). Things happen after Dame qualifies for the Golden Gloves, and he ends up in jail; Adonis goes on to live the good life. Kudos to the screenwriters for not revealing everything in the first act, instead just giving us a taste and allowing us to sympathize with both characters.
Jonathan Majors, having a phenomenal year, fully transforms into Dame. Less than a month after portraying a heel in the third Ant-Man film, he efficiently delivers another villainous turn. Here though, Majors flirts with elements of Greek tragedy almost to the point where there will be debates about who the film's true villain is.
I also credit the screenwriters and Jordan for the scenes with real-life deaf actress Mila Davis-Kent. The scenes she shares with Jordan are some of the best in the film and add a genuine layer of humanism. The scenes with Kent involve those around her using sign language, which comes across as organic and natural. Additionally, the returning cast of Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, and Tessa Thompson all provide solid work and share passionate, driven dialogue scenes with Jordan. Fans will also appreciate the return of two more franchise characters, whom I won't spoil.
While Creed III is highly enjoyable, I had a few gripes with the film. Granted, it's nothing overly major like bad wigs or continuity, but little plot details could have been tightened up in the editing with a few more lines of dialogue. Furthermore, Jordan took inspiration from anime with some of the fight sequences. I didn't have an issue with this choice, but some viewers may find it distracting.
Nevertheless, even with the cliches and suspension of disbelief moments, Creed III delivers a knockout. Jordan wisely chooses to focus on core relationships and dealing with sins of the past instead of all-out brawling.
Final Grade: A-
Creed III begins advance screenings on March 1st and opens everywhere on March 3rd.