Review by Shane McKevitt
Creed III (Michael B. Jordan, 2023) is certainly an improvement over the last film, which was an underwhelming follow-up to the pleasant surprise that was the first Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2014). This latest installment, the 9th of the Rocky franchise overall, marks the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan, who also stars as the titular character. It borrows from a number of previous franchise entries, namely Rocky III (Sylvester Stallone, 1982), and that’s perfectly fine; there’s a pattern that these films follow, and there’s nothing wrong with sticking to it. The central story between Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) and Damian (Jonathan Majors) is simple, yet effective. It carries enough dramatic weight to impart some genuine, personal stakes onto an otherwise routine storyline.
While the conflict between Adonis and Damian is the film’s shining light, the way their relationship is retroactively weaved into the protagonist’s backstory does, at times, feel rather heavy handed and awkward. Moreover, though this central narrative works to drive the plot forward, much of the rest of the film falls flat. Side plots involving Adonis’ wife (Tessa Thompson), daughter (Mila Davis-Kent), and mother (Phylicia Rasha) feel like obligatory ways to pad the runtime, rather than engaging plotlines on their own. These storylines are introduced and then either wrapped up before they have time to breathe, or left to fall by the wayside without a satisfying conclusion. Florian Munteanu also reprises his role as Viktor Drago from the last installment and his presence, or lack thereof, left me scratching my head.
Jordan takes a new approach to filming the boxing matches. He utilizes extreme closeups, exaggerated sound effects, and markedly cinematic camerawork. While the Rocky films have never striven for overt realism, this pushed it a step too far. The attempt to do something new is certainly commendable, however the combat in Creed III felt more like watching a video game than a fight.
Overall, Creed III is an improvement over the last installment, particularly due to its antagonist, and it’s certainly not among the worst of the franchise. However, there’s little to write home about and, unless you’re as predisposed to enjoying boxing films as I am, I can’t see why you should go out of your way to watch this one.