FILM REVIEW: CREED III
Release Date: 3rd March 2023
Directed by: Michael B. Jordan
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris
Screenplay by: Keenan Coogler, Zach Baylin
Cinematography: Kramer Morgenthau
``competent, but not spectacular``
This third entry in the Creed franchise (and the ninth overall in the Rocky series) doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Familiarity and predictability are part of the appeal, and three movies in is not the time to be trying out innovation.
For Creed III, Michael B. Jordan is double-jobbing, both starring and taking over directing duties from Ryan Coogler (Creed) and Stephen Caple Jr. (Creed II). Jordan proves himself to be a safe pair of hands. With a clear respect and affection for the character, Jordan is a competent, but not spectacular director; a description that could also be applied to the movie as a whole.
Creed III begins with a prohttp://creedlogue set in 2002 which establishes the close bond between the young Adonis Creed and an ambitious boxing protégé, Damien Anderson. An unfortunate twist of fate sends Anderson to prison, while Creed goes on to conquer the boxing world. Having retired at the top of his game in 2017, Creed is now enjoying life as a settled family man, looking after his daughter and giving Bianca (Tessa Thompson) the time she needs to focus on her own career. Then Anderson (Jonathan Majors) suddenly reappears, fresh from 18 years in prison. At first, everything is fine and dandy between the two former friends, but then everything isn’t. As one might expect, close to two decades in prison has given Anderson a bit of an edge.
If Creed II followed the predictable pattern of bringing a legacy character back into the ring to tickle our ‘memberberries, then screenwriters Keenan Coogler and Zach Balylin deserve some credit for not going down this road and instead trying to do something a little different. In that case, the main antagonist was the son of Dolph Lundgren’s Russian giant Ivan Drago. The expectation here would have been to bring back Rocky III’s Clubber Lang. That’s not to say that Creed III isn’t predictable where it needs to be. It most certainly is. But there is an undeniable comfort in that.
Thompson is as good as ever, and Bianca’s subplot is a welcome diversion from all the testosterone-fuelled shenanigans. Majors, though, is simply mesmerising. He commands our complete attention at all times, and never makes an expected choice in performance. With all the unpredictable energy of a wounded predator, his face displays a million different emotions, readable all at once. It’s a fascinating display.
Tony Conti’s majestic score is sorely missed, but not nearly as much as Sylvester Stallone. Stallone’s benign presence gave the previous movies a badly-needed sense of legitimacy and legacy. Of course there’s a training montage, with Jordan punching a tree (as you do) and pulling a plane (hello Geoff Capes), but no amount of fancy footwork and flashy showboating can disguise the fact that there’s a Rocky Balboa-shaped hole at the centre of Creed III. The fists are here but the heart is missing.
The fight sequences are as impressively kinetic as ever, although it can sometimes feel like we’re watching a music video rather than a movie. Having said that, the Rocky and Creed movies have always used these boxing segments as a surface sheen to add a bit of lustre over tales of triumph over adversity. The joy has always been rooting for the underdog faced with insurmountable odds. It’s slightly disappointing then that Creed III ultimately turns out to be nothing more than a pissing contest between two big, butch alpha males. Creed III is fine. No more, no less. It’s a solid entry to the franchise, but it’s difficult to see where there is left to go with this character.