The Plot: World boxing champion Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) has got where he wanted to be through hard work, sweat and gut determination. Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is still his rock and he has a young daughter to look after too. He has nothing left to prove in the ring as he moves towards retirement, or so he thinks. Childhood friend Damian (Jonathan Majors) resurfaces after a long stint in prison, as a result of an earlier incident in which young Adonis was also involved. At first, the friends reconnect and reminisce about the old days. Adonis takes Damian under his wing and sees potential in him as a boxer of great strength. However, there is still unfinished business between them that will have to be settled…
The Verdict: Good film series come in threes. Any more than that is testing the waters to see how much an audience is willing to keep on track with the characters. For another entry to justify itself, it has to have earned its place in the ring. That’s not something bothering Michael B. Jordan when it comes to Creed III. It builds upon the previous two films and the legacy of the Rocky films to continue and possibly wrap up the story of Adonis Creed, son of Apollo and friend of Rocky. This film and the title character have already earned their place in hearts and minds but push Adonis further to the edge just when things were looking comfortable. From his underdog days to reaching the pinnacle of his career, Adonis has come to realise that when you’re at the top the only way is down. So, he wisely steps aside to look to the next generation of fighters. One of them shows real potential, given the suppressed anger within him. This isn’t over.
Ryan Coogler steps aside as director this time around but continues as a co-writer, handing the gloves to Jordan who makes his directorial debut here. That’s a potentially risky move for the series given Jordan’s relative inexperience with a megaphone, though he has been quietly working away as a producer for a few years. However, Jordan proves to be a steady pair of hands both in front and behind the camera. There’s a firm sense here that he understands the character of Adonis, giving him a lived-in quality that shows progression in the character’s arc from moving out of his father’s shadow and into his own arena. The absence of Sylvester Stallone is felt, departing due to creative differences in the direction of the story (though he still retains a producing credit). This may be no harm to the film though. Stallone did his bit with Rocky in this series and has moved on, but so has Adonis. He is his own man now and doesn’t need the past to remind him who he is. He just needs to look at his family and where he’s gotten in his life, looking to the future instead.
Jordan instead focuses on how the past can drag you back to a different place, in the smouldering presence of Jonathan Majors. Majors is having something of a moment and it would appear that he raises the game of any film he’s in with his intensity and acting commitment to his roles. He becomes a formidable friend / opponent to Adonis over the course of the film, rising up the ranks with his barely-contained aggression. It’s an interesting counterpoint to play around with in and out of the ring – the man who has everything vs the man who has nothing. It becomes more than just another underdog story, a well-known beat in boxing films. Though, Jordan also plays into that familiarity with a finale that isn’t going to surprise anyone. There was potential there for something more soul-searching in the plot, but Jordan settles for the familiar. However, he does inject a tremendous amount of energy into the tense boxing scenes and even drops the boxing audience out for one surreal sequence to make it even more mano a mano. Jordan and Majors crackle onscreen – friends or foes? Creed III stumbles occasionally, but it’s still sturdy on its feet, goes for multiple rounds and packs a punch. Jordan has hinted at more films, but this comes across as a satisfying conclusion.
Rating: 3 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
In short: Packs a punch
Directed by Michael B. Jordan.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad.