Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Michael B Jordan

Stars: Michael B Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Mila Davis-Kent, Jose Benavidez, Florian Munteaunu, Phylicia Rashad, Thaddeus James Mixson jr, Spence Moore II, Wood Harris.

The third film in a popular series tends to be a bit of a mixed bag quality wise – for every Rocky III and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade there are half a dozen The Godfather Part 3s. And that is the problem with this third film in the Creed series, which itself is a spinoff from the Oscar winning 1976 film Rocky which starred Sylvester Stallone. This is the first film in the extended Rocky universe that does not feature Stallone, although he is still attached to the project as one of the producers. It’s just that Creed III is a good film, but not a great one.  

When the film opens we learn that it has been three years since heavyweight champion Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) stepped away from the ring. He is still involved in the boxing world though as the manager of a gym that trains a new generation of wannabe champions. He also manages champion boxer Felix Chavez (played by Jose Benavidez, a real-life boxer) who is aiming to defend his title against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteaunu).  

But then a character from Creed’s past returns and threatens to destroy both his reputation and his family. This challenge comes from Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a former childhood friend of Creed’s. As a teenager the young and troubled, street wise Adonis (Thaddeus James Mixson jr) was friends with boxing prodigy and junior champion Damian (Spence Moore II) until a violent incident split them apart. While Adonis was able to flee the scene of the incident, police arrested Damian and he was sent to prison. Now Damian is free and, believing that he is owed a shot at the boxing glory that was denied him he puts pressure on Adonis to deliver.  

Adonis is happily married to Bianca (Tessa Thompson), the former singer turned music producer, and they have a young daughter in Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) who is deaf but bright and feisty. Those scenes which show Adonis interacting with his family show what is at risk from Damian’s reappearance, and they give the film much of its emotional resonance and humanity.  

But once Damian manages to win the championship he poses even more of a threat, and Adonis reluctantly realises that the only way he can win is to step back into the ring. 

Ultimately Creed III is a somewhat cliched and predictable variation on the familiar underdog story that is one of the tropes of the sporting drama subgenre. The film has been written by Keenan Coogler (Space Jam: A New Beginning), Zach Baylin (King Richard) and Ryan Coogler, who directed the first two films in the Creed series and is clearly aimed at fans of the series.  

Here Jordan steps into the director’s chair for his first time behind the camera and it is clear that he has learned much from his many collaborations with Coogler. His handling of the material is confident but also quite sensitive when dealing with the family dramas, while his handling of the carefully choreographed boxing scenes is muscular and visceral. Working with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau (Creed II, etc) Jordan also employs some wonderful imagery during the climactic fight sequence that gives us some insights into Creed’s feelings, his fears and doubts, his sense of guilt, and his sense of having been trapped by his past. 

I found the rap influenced soundtrack a bit too aggressive and in-your-face though. 

Jordan is a charismatic performer, and he makes his Adonis a hero audiences can root for. Majors has the perfect physicality for his role, and he oozes plenty of aggression, malevolence and menace as, arguably, the best antagonist in a Rocky film since Mr T’s Clubber Lang, although his character is pretty much one dimensional and lacks nuance. And with this role and his recent performance as Kang the Conqueror in Antman And The Wasp: Quantumania he is becoming typecast as the villain du jour. Jordan and Majors develop a palpable chemistry.  

Thompson is empathetic and sympathetic as Adonis’ supportive wife Bianca while Davis-Kent is cute, feisty and almost steals her scenes for her veteran costars. Phylicia Rashad (from The Cosby Show, etc) reprises her role as Apollo Creed’s wife who rescued the young Adonis from juvenile detention and raised him as her own son. 

While the series has generally maintained its quality across nine films in the extended Rocky franchise in nearly forty years it is probably time to hang up the gloves and retire the franchise, walking away with a win. 


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