Creed III (2023) – Cinema Review

Y/N? No

Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors & Wood Harris

Director: Michael B. Jordan

Review by Damocles.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see past the star & director’s huge ego.

When the first Creed movie came out, continuing the legacy of the Rocky’s boxing franchise, I was pleasantly surprised by the heart and commitment of the new cast and generation to the DNA of the series.

After all, Rocky has always been a story about the underdog, the classic story of a man with a heart of gold who just never quits. The boxing choreography isn’t really there to sell an excellent fight scene, it’s to tell the story of a man who puts everything on the line to hopefully triumph at the very end.

If you want to see a good fight, boxing isn’t really the sport to sell it. There are plenty of better martial arts films, to gawk at the choreography.

Which means the onus of a good boxing film, like any good sports flick, is have a likeable main character who has to triumph in the end over something deep and personal, regardless of the result of the match itself.

After all, the first Rocky movie famously ends in a loss, but it doesn’t matter, because Rocky did the impossible … he stood toe to toe with the champion and survived all 15 rounds.

The issue with Creed III, is that at no point does Adonis truly feels like he is the underdog. Too much of the narrative around him is flimsy and the challenges appear and are resolved almost immediately.

The family drama is easily rectified, the tension between Adonis and Dame is compelling but it’s also not deep enough to truly make you root for Adonis and so many of his problems come from the standpoint that he has it all, but at no point is in any danger of losing it all.

Adonis Creed, as a character in this time of his life, isn’t interesting and therein lies the main problem I have with Creed III. A lot of this story feels superfluous, and in many ways, ruins the goodwill I had with this character after the ending of Creed II.

To follow someone who has everything, but for the entire runtime of the movie, doesn’t really risk his castle being torn down, makes for a very dull character.

There are so many alternatives that the writers could have played with his character, from potentially losing his home and family due to his shady past, to inverting the training montage, letting Dame enjoy the fruits of his success and Adonis searching the streets for strength.

Alas, the movie did not go deeper into the story, because I suspect that Jordan’s ego and protectiveness over his own alter ego/character meant that he refused to let Adonis sink to the depths that the story probably needed to make him more compelling. You can tell that Adonis means a lot to Jordan, to the point where I am not even sure if the male lead is even acting anymore.

Thankfully there is more separation with the rest of the cast, as limited as they are. Tessa Thompson continues to bring a warmth and sweetness to Bianca, her chemistry with Jordan still as strong as ever. Wood Harris has a greater role here, doing his best to fill the void that was left by Sylvester Stallone’s absence (which is quite noticeable).

But this film is all about Johnathan Majors’ acting ability. He is threatening, dangerous, coiled and ready to tango at any given time and it is a testament to his skill that he makes Dame half the compelling villain he is. Even though he definitely hams it up in the second half of the film.

From a sheer narrative perspective, Creed III just seems like an unnecessary story that was padded out for the sake of a sequel. The old tale of a ghost rising from the dead in the main character’s past is so contrived and is at odds with Adonis’ whole character arc, who has now entered the mentor phase. This is why, the story lacked any depth, because Jordan has dictated that his character gets to have his cake and eat it …. be a mentor and a returning champion.

Beyond the mishmash plot that tried to create more depth with Adonis, from a directing and cinematography standpoint, Creed III does tries for more ambitious story-telling techniques that are quite reminiscent of anime-style framing and emphasis, from the slow-motion to the close-ups. Most of it though, ended up being more immersion breaking than engaging and I found myself missing the more traditional style of shooting a boxing match.

There is a clear desire from Jordan to include more anime-like shots in his fight scenes, but they ultimately took the drama out of the fight, because it became too melodramatic and in a way, the fight choreography no longer told a story because it was superseded by the bizarre choices in the finale.

In addition to this, the score this time was much weaker, Jordan Shirley’s work nowhere near capturing the heights of Ludwig Goransson’s tribute to the previous Rocky films. This can be heard by the usage of more hip-hop in the score, which again proves to be more distracting than it is immersive.

In many ways, Creed III breaks away from the Rocky formula, from film techniques, score, character motivations and the classic use of contrasting the protagonist and antagonist, much to its detriment. Too much of the plot is unnecessary to the character of Adonis, that wasn’t already covered in the two previous films and the fights in the film aren’t noteworthy enough when compared to better martial arts films.

To sum up this “fight” … if you are a fan of Rocky, Creed III lets you down with how much it strays from the classic films, and if you are a fan of sports films, Creed III lets you down with how little you care about what makes this fight worth watching.

A scene to recall: The training montage, but in particular the scene where Adonis flashes back to when he ran and the shadows looked incredible on the streets and in the dark lighting.

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