Creed III becomes more of its own thing than another entry in this Rocky spin-off series.
Creed III (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on March 8, 2023
Rating 3.5 /5
Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s Apollo Creed, finally gets to soar solo in Creed III. Gone are the constant reminders of Rocky Balboa and his history with Apollo. Replacing that nostalgia is a boxing movie that can stand and punch all on its own, due in no small part to the film’s lead, Michael B Jordan, taking over directing duties.
Since the events of Creed II, Adonis has become more of a boxing manager than a title fighter. Having taken many licks and won many championships, he steps out to spend more time with his family. His wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), has taken a similar career path by shifting from singer to producer. Their child, Amara, is an adorable deaf girl with a chipper attitude and desire to stand up to bullies. With Adonis's help, she might learn that bravery is more than just throwing the right punch.
Throwing a wrench into Adonis’s life is his old friend Dame (Jonathan Majors), stepping out of the shadows of his past. During his younger days with Adonis, Dame had spent several years in prison but hadn’t let go of his dreams of becoming a boxer. Feeling partially responsible and needing to reconcile with his past, Creed takes on Dame and gives him another shot at being the champ he dreamed of becoming. While Dame puts in all the effort, he’s far too good in the ring, leading to him going far more brutal in boxing. Having created a boxing bully, it’s up to Creed to put back on the gloves and place his revenge-seeking former friend back in his place.
Jordan and Majors are incredible in this picture. Jordan gives his character far more depth and personality as a man weighing his life as a husband, father, son, coach, and friend. Watching him go from being a force of blood-pumping nature in the ring to a loving dad with his kid. Plenty of that boxing grit and bitter frustrations come about in everything from training for the big fight to making tough calls while managing his boxers. Majors is a fantastic villain in this picture, given his towering presence and intimidating acting style. Building him up as a former friend of Creed makes this character more compelling beyond the simplistic motivations of “Will Creed beat this guy in the ring?”
Jordan’s direction in this picture is stellar and takes some bold new swings with staging the pulse-pounding fight scenes. As he’s mentioned in interviews, he takes a lot of inspiration from shonen anime. Watch carefully during the big climax, and you’ll see some heavy similarities to Dragon Ball Z, as with the close-ups of backs arched by punches and slow-motion slams to the body. There’s also an artistically refreshing approach to how he films the grueling pace of the big fight, where time passes in an empty stadium of darkness as Jordan and Majors continue to duke it out. The simplicity of this scene, by drowning out all the noise, makes the climax all the more personal and packs a bigger hit than just sticking with the same format as the previous movies. After all, there are only so many ways to film a final fight of a boxing movie before it becomes tedious without some stark change.
As engrossing as the film becomes, it does have a relatively weak first act. Most of the build-up to the title match teased for the film is a heavy dump of exposition and small arcs that don’t fully pay off. It’s unfortunate that Adonis’s wife and daughter more or less become thematic stepping stones to Creed’s bigger goal and never really culminate in anything more than a cheer at the grand finale. Still, once the film picks up with its grander theme of being open about the past, the picture takes off and becomes a powerhouse of excellent boxing action.
Creed III becomes more of its own thing than another entry in this Rocky spin-off series. Without the baggage of Rocky's history, the character of Adonis Creed feels more complete and exciting in this film. It’s also a fantastic directorial debut for Michael B. Jordan, proving he has the chops to craft unique movies that pack just as much punch as his Creed character.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.