Creed III movie poster

Creed III

In theaters March 3, 2023


117 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

Quick, name the actor associated with every Rocky and Creed film. Did you say Sylvester Stallone? If so, you’d be right for eight of the nine movies in the boxing franchise. So why only eight? Well, that would be because Creed III, the newest installment in the Rocky universe, seems to have forgotten Rocky even existed. On purpose? Most likely as the series realizes to continue moving forward it has to leave the aging champion in the past. But nary a mention of the champ? That just seems wrong. And so begins a series of unfortunate decisions that leads to Creed III failing to deliver a knockout.

Ascending to the apex of the mountain, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordna), now retired, and wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), are living the high life in their mega mansion high above L.A. with their adorable daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Creed having traded in his boxing gloves for afternoon tea with his baby girl now spends his day running a boxing gym and serving as a fight promoter for champion, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez). Life is good…until the return of Damian “Dame” Anderson (rising star Jonathan Majors) .

Diving into Adonis Creed’s past with a backstory exploring his younger years while in a group home, the film expands Creed’s universe through Anderson. An older pal who introduces Creed to the world of boxing as a teenager, he just as fast disappears from his world after a poor decision lands him in jail. Fast forwarding through Creed’s last fight and then to present day, Anderson’s release from prison finds him a much larger man who now wants his shot at stardom but also carries a heavy chip on his shoulder. From the first meeting 18 years after they last saw one another, a unsaid tension exists between the two until it erupts.

Creed III scores an unheard of two TKOs – but not necessarily in the film’s favor. The first has Michael B. Jordan starring in, directing, and producing the film. Remember One-Eyed Jacks, Fences, or Larry Crowne? No? All three are films starred in and directed by Academy Award-winning actors (Marlon Brando, Denzel Washington, and Tom Hanks, respectively), two of which the star actor also produced the film. Sure, there is a rare success like Dancing With the Wolves, but more often than not the end product turns out more like Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon – yup Prince directed that forgettable film.

Interestingly enough, it’s Jordan’s directing that shines brightest amongst the three roles with the film. Jordan’s love for anime shines through throughout the film – from a poster hanging in his room to fight sequences that mirror popular anime hits. His use of super slo-mo for key punches thrown in matches can be felt as can the sweat beads that permeates the air. The final boxing match is a knockout featuring some of the most realistic fighting in the Rocky and Creed series although a decision to remove the crowd three quarters through the final match to make it feel more personal only distances the viewer from the excitement of the match. And it’s not to say that Jordan’s acting is bad. In fact, he probably gets to flex his acting muscles more in the third film than he did in previous installments. It’s just that there’s too much story and too little boxing. Which leads to the more concerning TKO: the film is boring, unrealistic, and the two main characters lack any real chemistry.

Boring It took just two movies and 15 or so minutes for Adonis Creed to be claimed the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and then retire. While that is more than a film more than it took Rocky who retired in Rocky II, with the bulk of the film taking place three years after Creed’s last fight, it means that a good chunk of the film also takes place with a boxer who doesn’t fight. A movie following a former champion who nows is a gym owner and fight promoter is akin to going to see Michael Jordan (no B. here, talking about the NBA GOAT) and instead seeing him sit in a suite as an owner. Not to mention that it takes nearly an hour to get to a real boxing match.

Unrealistic It’s fair to say that many, if not all, of the Rocky and Creed films feature some sense of impracticability, but Dame’s ascension from sparring partner to heavyweight contender nearly overnight is preposterous. Again, past films are not necessarily rooted in pure realism, but there is at least a sense of believability. Even allowing for a no one to get a shot so quickly, the WBC likely would never allow a convicted boxer to fight, especially so soon after his release. Add in a predictability factor of 10 and the two lead to a quick takedown.

Chemistry Much of the failure of this film starts and ends with the younger actors playing Creed and Anderson. Friends so close they consider themselves brothers, the lack of chemistry between the two results in a real emotional investment never being formed in their relationship. With such two strong actors and presences playing the the older boxers it requires similar equal sized personalities and they simply didn’t find it in the teenage actors. And so when the entire film rests upon this initial brotherhood that never materializes it is hard to take the pain, frustration, and angst between the now aged Creed and Anderson seriously. Both Jordan and Majors adequately share their feelings as they go through the motions, but the relationship never feels as real as it may have on paper.

Reminiscent of the original Rocky film, Creed is certainly the most personal of the trilogy – a movie more about the man than his sport. It will go on to make gobs of money and appears to be headed towards its first female lead in the Rocky world. Let’s just hope that whatever comes next remembers that what sets the best Rocky movies from the rest is a final match that gets viewers excited and gives them something to cheer out loud about and even applaud when the final bell rings. That sadly didn’t happen here.

Creed III is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Mark Eaton
Mark is an entertainment junkie, spending much of his leisure time watching movies, TV, or listening to any and all genres of music. Most evenings, after finishing a day of work and hanging with his wife and kids, Mark can be found in an eternal battle with his DVR, trying to clear it before another 5-6 hours of shows are recorded the next day. Still reeling from his unpaid gig for the Detroit News where he was fired for being too cruel with his American Idol recaps, Mark is thrilled to be sharing his wicked sense of humor with Movie Reelists.

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