Creed III (2023) (Review)

Though an improvement over its predecessor, Creed III falls short of adding anything fresh to the franchise and fails to take enough risks to be memorable.

Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut was no easy feat, taking the helm amidst the 9th film in a beloved franchise and the third in the most recent Creed storyline. Jordan returns as fighter Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo, and does his best to improve Creed III over its predecessor, but is it enough? Many will compare Jordan to Sylvester Stallone, who directed four of the “Rocky” movies—starring in eight of them if you include the first two Creed films—and there’s an added element of pressure, having to follow the success of Ryan Coogler. With all that pressure, Jordan has turned Creed III into a film that entertains the audience and keeps the story moving ahead with great performances. Unfortunately, the film suffers from the franchises greatest weakness; having too much of a predictable story without any real substance to separate it from the rest.

Taking Risks – Did they Take Enough?

Early on, there’s a brilliant long take during a flashback in 2002 Los Angeles that follows a young Adonis Creed (Thaddeus J. Mixon)  with his best friend, Golden Gloves champion Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Spence Moore II as flashback and Jonathan Majors as modern-day Anderson). The camera work is remarkable—following the two as they entertain a building where an underground boxing match is being held—and it excited me about what’s to come in the film. Dame wins an underground boxing match and tells Adonis his world champion aspirations. It’s easy to imagine where this will go. The two stop at a liquor store and Adonis impulsively attacks a man named Leon, why we’re not sure, but it’s easy enough to piece together if you know the story.

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Here is where the story fails the most. Everything from here on out is fairly predictable, which is due to a script that refuses to take enough risk. Everything that happens doesn’t come as a surprise, and even the set-up description makes it easy to know who Adonis is fighting next and how that’ll even happen.

Where Does the Plot Go?

Fast-forward, you have Creed on top of the world, having been retired from boxing for a few years, and lives a life of luxury with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). There’s a great family connection between the three, which makes it easy to understand how close and tight-knit the family is. Eventually, Dame returns, who has toughened himself in prison—having to serve time for pulling a gun out on the man Adonis attacked—and now seeks the boxing glory he believes he is owed. Feeling responsible for his lockup, Adonis agrees and gets Dame set up to train, setting the stage for an eventual fight with Adonis.

The film works best in the fight sequences, utilizing brilliant camera technique, editing, and slow motion to offer a fascinating array of fights. After a string of unbelievable events, Dame gets the opportunity to for an underdog fight—similar to Rocky Balboa’s first title shot—and wins. He challenges Adonis here, and the film shifts to the back half. If the film’s fight sequences are enough to get keep you entertained, then by all means, you’ll enjoy it. The issue relates to where the plot goes since nothing out-of-the-ordinary seems to happen, leaving me dissatisfied. It’s a real shame because the boxing matches are so epic and well-done, it could’ve used some added drama and deeper plot lines for a better overall picture.

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Fans of the franchise should be excited that there’s another solid entry into the Rocky and Creed Franchise. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have much to add outside of well-done boxing matches and solid acting. A few more risks with the plot could’ve really elevated it, but instead, it’s just another film in the franchise.

TMFF RATING:


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3.4.2023
 

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