Creed III review: Not a total knockout, but a strong return

In the realm of sports movies, simplicity reigns supreme. It’s not just a selling point; it’s the essence of what draws audiences in. We crave the familiar formula: the long odds stacked against underdogs, the journey through adversity leading to triumphant victories. In this landscape, even a franchise as iconic as Rocky can evolve beyond its original protagonist. Enter Creed III, hitting theaters on March 3rd, marking the first installment in the series without Sylvester Stallone’s presence in any role. Stallone, a cornerstone of the franchise, has notably severed ties with the project, leaving the reins firmly in the hands of Michael B. Jordan.

Jordan, known for his nuanced performances, steps into dual roles as both the lead character, Adonis Creed, and as the director, marking his feature directorial debut. It’s a daring move, perhaps juggling one too many responsibilities, yet Jordan’s passion for the project shines through. Creed III may falter at times, lacking the weight and precision of its predecessors, but it also transcends the blunt melodrama that marred its immediate predecessor. This departure from the formula is both refreshing and challenging, reminiscent of the transition when original Creed director Ryan Coogler stepped away to helm Black Panther.

In contrast to Coogler’s tightly wound narrative, Jordan’s approach is more expansive, favoring a simpler, more visceral storytelling style. Adonis Creed is now a seasoned champion, content in his personal life as a family man in his mid-thirties. His picturesque existence in a modern Los Angeles villa, overlooking the city, is complete with his wife Bianca, a talented singer-songwriter portrayed by Tessa Thompson, and their young daughter, who is deaf. The familial dynamics, including regular visits from Mary Anne, Adonis’s late father’s widow played by Phylicia Rashad, add depth to the story, portraying Adonis’s life beyond the ring with authenticity and heart.

Creed 3

In the tapestry of existence, Damian “Dame” Anderson (portrayed by Jonathan Majors) finds himself on the cusp of reclaiming his slice of the American dream. His journey intertwines with that of his old friend from foster care, Donnie, affectionately known as Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan). Once inseparable as roommates in a group home, their paths diverged after a fateful altercation at a gas station ended in tragedy. Now, nearly two decades later, Dame emerges from the confines of prison, fueled by a burning desire to resurrect his boxing career and recapture the glory of his lost junior title.

As the narrative unfolds, the echoes of past decisions reverberate, drawing Adonis back into the ring he thought he had left behind. The age-old question looms: Can he muster the strength to face his former friend-turned-foe once more? And perhaps more importantly, should he? The symbolism is stark as Adonis dons pristine white satin, contrasting with Dame’s somber all-black attire, reflecting the stark clarity that permeates the film. In this arena, there is no room for shades of gray; it’s a battle of wills, distilled to its purest form.

The screenplay, penned by Zach Baylin (known for “King Richard”) and Keenan Coogler, brother of director Ryan Coogler, delivers its narrative punches with precision. Jordan and Majors infuse their characters with raw intensity, embodying the relentless pursuit of their respective goals. Yet, amidst the fervor of their rivalry, supporting characters like Bianca, portrayed by Tessa Thompson, and Adonis’s trainer, portrayed by Wood Harris, orbit the central conflict like satellites, their roles serving to accentuate the gravity of the protagonists’ struggles.

Majors’ portrayal of Dame exudes a palpable sense of woundedness, hinting at the layers of anguish and resentment buried beneath his hardened exterior. Unlike the stereotypical villains of Rocky lore, Dame emerges as a complex figure, grappling with his own demons and haunted by past traumas. Still, it is Adonis Creed’s name that adorns the movie poster, his championship belt awaiting redemption. As the final bell tolls, the legacy of Creed hangs in the balance, poised to reclaim its rightful place in the annals of boxing history.

 

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