In true Stallone fashion, Michael B. Jordan has taken the reins of the Rocky franchise. He directs and stars in Creed III, a sports drama following Adonis Creed after his retirement as the heavyweight boxing champion. When his old friend Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) gets out of prison, the two reconnect, but bad blood between them can only be settled in the ring. The Creed series is no stranger to putting newcomers in the director’s chair. After Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr., Jordan was hired for double duty on an epic, thrilling boxing movie that packs a punch.
This movie found itself in a tight spot. After concluding the story of Rocky Balboa in Creed II (along with a real falling out between Stallone and the producers), the story of the Italian Stallion was over. So how do you make a Rocky movie with no Rocky? You go into the life of Adonis “Donnie” Creed, the new face of the series, and remove him from the shadow of both the iconic underdog and his father, Apollo. Creed III begins by delving into Donnie’s adolescent years, getting into boxing with his best friend, Dame. He gets into an altercation in the street as we punch into the present, where Donnie wins a boxing match against an old foe.
As the new heavyweight champion, this film explores Donnie in a new place in his life. He is far removed from the young up-and-comer who wanted to make his own legacy in the 2015 film. He is older, raising a young daughter named Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). The father-daughter relationship brings a new heart and soul that the film greatly benefits from, grounding our protagonist and bringing out a warm side to him. The film features Creed interacting with many people, showing how he code switches once he begins talking to Dame.
The screenplay from Keenan Coogler (Space Jam: A New Legacy) and Zach Baylin (King Richard) works on multiple levels. Although the film can easily be criticized as predictable, with most Rocky movies following the same formula, the dialogue is fascinating due to how much is happening behind the scenes. In addition, this is the first time Donnie goes up against an antagonist with whom he has a deep personal connection, even more so than Viktor Drago from Creed II. Their history allows for a particularly investing story where Donnie is confronted by his past, clouding his judgment of what to do in the present.
Acting and directing simultaneously is no easy task, but Jordan knocks it out of the park, showing skill both in front of and behind the camera. This is Majors’ second villainous role in a studio movie in less than a month following Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. He is a formidable screen presence, making you hate his character while also understanding where his emotions are coming from. Furthermore, Tessa Thompson’s performance is understated but phenomenal as she grounds every scene she is in.
Jordan brings a lot of anime influence into the fights, going for extreme close-ups and slow-motion. Every Rocky movie needs a big boxing finale, and this movie delivers that in a way that isn’t exactly what you would expect. Instead, Jordan makes the final fight his own with a story that allows every punch to hurt. While Creed III is checking boxes with the training montage, the family drama, and the uplifting ending, it’s a formula that remains as inspiring as it was when Rocky Balboa took on Apollo Creed in 1976.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.”
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