By Charles Kirkland Jr.
Childhood friends find themselves facing each other in opposite corners of the squared circle in the third installment in the Rocky spin-off, action franchise, Creed III.
After closing out his career in boxing as the undisputed champion, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has turned to the business side of the sport. Aside from his gym with his name on it, Creed is running the promotion of the current undisputed heavyweight champion, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez). As Chavez is preparing for his upcoming fight, Adonis’ childhood friend Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) resurfaces and returns to the life of his best friend and group home buddy, Adonis. The once-upon-a-time Golden Gloves champion wants to get back in the ring. Adonis is pleased to help by allowing him to work out and eventually spar with the champ. Unfortunately, the impatient Dame wants his shot at the title now and outrageously claims that it is Creed’s responsibility to give him the opportunity. How much does Creed owe Dame and how much can he afford to pay?
Creed III is written by Keenan Coogler and Zach Braylin based upon a story by Ryan Coogler based upon a story by Sylvester Stallone who serves as one of the film’s producers. Creed III stars Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors, with Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Jose Benavidez, and Mila Jones-Kent. The film is the directorial debut for Michael B. Jordan who received the reigns of the franchise from Ryan Coogler. Interestingly enough, Coogler serves as a producer for the movie but released the jobs of both writing and directing this time around.
The most surprising thing about Creed is the amount of boxing that is in the film. The movie opens with a fight. There is a fight in the middle. There are training sequences and a fight in the final act of the film. Fights require a level of coordination and training to film convincingly. Jordan, again in his directorial debut, does a stellar job capturing some pretty convincing fight scenes. In an extremely creative scene, he allows the viewers a glimpse into how the world disappears as the two combatants engage each other in the ring. Not limited to his fight scenes, Jordan shows technical prowess as he uses simple but extremely tight close-ups to drive and intensify the emotions of certain screen moments and highlight their significance
There is nothing super surprising about the story here. In fact, there are a number of parallels to Rocky III in Creed III. This movie connects on an emotional level that is much different than Rocky or any other film in this franchise. Underlying all the fighting is the battle for emotional health. Adonis has to fight traumas that are traced back to his childhood. Historically, he has physically fought in an attempt to ignore and suppress these emotions but as he learns from his wife and tries to teach their daughter, not every battle is won through fists.
Let’s be honest. You’ve got two of the biggest modern-day black male acting talents facing off in a vehicle that could have been designed to waste their talents, focusing on physicality instead of mental acuity. After all, the amount of time that the two actors spend shirtless will be troubling to anyone who is not well-adjusted and secure in their lack of (ahem) definition. However, the depth of story provided by Coogler (the brother) and Braylin gives plenty of room for Jordan and Majors to emote often and sufficiently enough to justify their credentials as up-and-coming superstars.
Let’s hear it for the women though. Tessa Thompson continues to show that she is the real deal in her face-offs with Jordan and Majors. And Mila Jones-Kent delivers the most adorable, feisty, and just out-and-out wonderful performance as Amara, the daughter of the champ. She is a kiss of beautiful sunshine in the film. The consummate professional, Phylicia Rashad returns in this film as the loving and aging mother who has her own demons to overcome. Simply put, there is no shortage of powerful performance here.
Noticeably missing from the film is the presence of Rocky Balboa. As mentioned before, Stallone is given credit as a producer of the film but he is nowhere to be found in the film. There is not even a mention of Rocky’s name. It is understandable that the franchise could go on with Stallone and Stallone has been public about his lack of rights to the Rocky character but it seems strange for the film to be completely silent as to the condition of the franchise foundation.
Rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence, and some strong language, Creed III is a whole lot of fun. Sure it’s predictable but it is not always about the story but the execution of the story. With strong acting and direction, the execution here is above par. This film is more than the eye candy you expect from the franchise.