Still dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed is thriving in his career and family life. When Damian, a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces after serving time in prison, he’s eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian — a fighter who has nothing to lose.
With the latest film in the Creed series, star Michael B Jordan makes his directorial debut, helming a script by Ryan Coogler and Zach Baylin.
In Creed III, the titular Adonis Creed, freshly crowned world champion once again, and freshly retired, must battle with his past (both figuratively and literally) when his boyhood best friend Damien ‘Dame’ Anderson reappears, recently released from prison and intent on claiming the boxing glory Creed has and Dame feels he deserves. When this escalates from simply ‘getting his chance in the ring’ to something much darker, Creed is forced back into the ring, putting his reputation and his body on the line to face a fighter full of hate and with nothing to lose.
Of course, Jordan is no stranger to a film production or the industry at large, but even with that in mind this is a notably slick and confident debut behind the camera. It’s fitting that he’s been given the keys on this film. Jordan not only takes the helm in the director’s chair, but also onscreen in the first film in the series not to feature Stallone’s Rocky, and proves that the story can go on just as strongly without the character. It doesn’t feel like a simple Rocky-less continuation of the franchise but rather a solid, natural extension of that world.
The cast are fantastic. Jordan as director clearly doesn’t cut any slack for himself as a performer, while Johnathan Majors and Tessa Thompson shine in their roles and young Mila Davis-Kent is a real standout, incredibly confident and nuanced despite her age, as the Creeds’ daughter Amara. The script is possibly the weakest aspect of the project, but that pegs it as the weakest of a very strong set. Emotional beats and major plot points can come across as on the nose, but the same criticisms can be levelled at most sporting films, and they still come across effectively and do their job. The most noteworthy issue is that at points the growing rivalry between Creed and Dame can feel awfully like a ‘Rich vs Poor’ story in which we’re expected to root for the powerful, rich, celebrity boxer and shun the underdog. Coogler and Baylin overcome this with much reliance on sudden, heavy handed vilifying of Dame well into the story, as well as a reliance on the fans’ familiarity with the Creed character and Jordan’s natural charisma. It doesn’t stain the overall viewing experience too much, but it is handled bluntly and could easily leave a bad taste in the mouths of some viewers seeing it from a certain perspective.
Realistically, the big draw of a boxing film, especially in the world of Rocky, is the final fight scene, and Creed 3’s is something of a let-down in a few ways. The straightforward boxing elements are exciting, fast paced, and shot very well, but Jordan decides to take a swing and change things up stylistically. At one point, he removes the in-world arena audience, leaving no one in the scene but our two pugilists. It’s an admirable chance to take, and I give him props for doing it, but it removes much of the frenetic energy, and therefore the stakes and momentum, especially down to the dulled, silent (save for the sound of glove on flesh and the fighters’ breaths) sound design. The inclusion of prison bars in the ring and the two fighters seeing each other as they were when they were young and inseparable. Luckily, we are taken back to the real world for the last round climax but, thrown immediately into the twelfth and final round, which is jarring and further kills some of the tension and momentum. The post-fight emotional interactions between characters are strong and genuine feeling, so the film does end on a quite strong note at least.
Creed 3 is out now.