Creed III review

Creed III review | Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut treads familiar ground

Actor Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with Creed III which brings back Adonis Creed. Read our review of the boxing sequel.


Actor Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with Creed III. Read our review of the boxing sequel.

Ryan Coogler’s 2015 sports drama Creed was an unlikely success. Bouncing off a once-popular, all-but-dead boxing franchise Rocky, Coogler succeeded in something most can only dream of: making a franchise relevant and contemporary again. 

So, naturally, a sequel followed in 2018 and received a somewhat mixed reaction. Creed II, directed by Steven Caple Jr., lifted most of its narrative from Rocky IV by bringing back Ivan Drago and forcing Adonis Creed to fight Drago’s son Viktor, essentially avenging Apollo Creed’s death at the hands of Ivan. 

Both films also brought back Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa. This might be a wildly unpopular opinion, but Rocky has always been a crutch for Creed as a franchise. The conflict within Creed, the franchise and the character, has always been about Adonis making his own legacy, free of his father’s towering achievements in the world of boxing, but the franchise has always borrowed so heavily from Rocky, it feels like it was trapped under it. 

creed III

Credit: Warner Bros

Rocky is completely absent from Creed III, finally freeing the franchise. Star Michael B. Jordan, whose performance as Adonis has been critically acclaimed, also makes his directorial debut here with the trilogy closer. And Creed III is a remarkably confident first film for Jordan but falls victim to the franchise’s old formulaic plot. 

Adonis’ childhood has largely gone unexplored until now. The film’s brief prologue introduces us to a younger Adonis as well as Damien ‘Dame’ Anderson (played by Spence Moore II as a youngster and Jonathan Majors later), who is a boxing prodigy. Or was, until shady events led to him being incarcerated for 18 years. 

When the film jumps back to the present day, we find Adonis at the height of his career. He retires after retaining the title of heavyweight champion of the world. He now nurtures younger boxers, including Felix Chavez, but when Damien comes back into the picture, Adonis’ whole life is in danger of unravelling.

You can see where the film goes from here. Damien and Adonis are pitted against each other in the ultimate battle of not just a boxing title but redemption. Adonis has a lot of unresolved guilt over how things went down with Damien and harbour a lot of anger towards the entire world. 

creed III tessa thompson

Credit: Warner Bros.

Jordan has already spoken of how his love of anime has informed how he shot the boxing scenes, and the influence is clear but perhaps a little simplified. It essentially means that the fight scenes have a lot of hyper-realistic slow-mo. 

There’s also a fascinating rhythm to these scenes. Creed III features perhaps the best fight scenes in the entire saga. They’re violent, frenetic and almost rushed, in a complimentary way. The force of every blow is certainly felt. Then, Jordan slows things down to focus on the impact of a specific hit or on Adonis’ eyes as he spots his opponent’s weakness before the pummeling continues. 

As a director, Jordan succeeds. Creed III won’t blow you away, but it’s good enough. Funnily enough, Jordan might be the weakest of his cast. He has nurtured wonderful performances from Tessa Thompson, who has slightly more screen time here than in the second film, and Jonathan Majors, who is all fire and brimstone as Damien. 

But it seems that Jordan, whose best performances have been under the guidance of Black Panther -director Coogler, could have used some of that nurturing. Majors, the undeniable highlight of the film, has that same raw charisma that Ryan Gosling had circa 2011 when no one could match him. While Majors’ work here is impressive on an individual level, such a powerhouse performance can also weirdly bring the entire film down when everyone else seems to be slumming it next to such a kinetic performer. 

creed III jonathan majors

Credit: Warner Bros.

Ultimately, Creed III felt like an opportunity to fully break free from the franchise and the genre’s constrictions. While Rocky’s absence finally opens up some new avenues, the film fails to utilise these to their fullest potential. Jordan announces himself as a competent director, but perhaps it’s time for Creed to hang up the gloves for good.

Creed III is in cinemas on March 3.  

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