Feb 23, 2023
By Kaveh Jalinous
Creed III–the third film in the Creed franchise and the eighth film in the Rocky universe overall–is a disappointing outing that suffers from uneven pacing, underdone narratives and a general lack of focus. The film, which is Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut, is also the first film in the franchise without Sylvester Stallone playing his iconic Rocky Balboa.
The film begins with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), son of the infamous Apollo Creed, fighting his final fight, before retirement, as the world’s heavyweight boxing champion. He spends his days with his busy singer/songwriter wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and his deaf daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). He also works as a businessman, training the best and brightest heavyweight boxers in his newly-bought gym. Even though his days are full of activities, it’s clear that something is missing, as Adonis seems somewhat discontent with being away from fighting.
Adonis’ tranquil lifestyle quickly disappears when Damian (Jonathan Majors), his best friend from childhood, returns after spending 18 years in prison. At first, Adonis offers to help Damian in any way possible, giving him a spot at his boxing club and allowing him to fight in big matches even though he isn’t a professional boxer. Things rapidly spiral, though, when Damian reveals the reasons for his return, forcing Adonis to directly face his past to move forward.
When it comes to Creed III’s story, the Adonis-Damian conflict is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several smaller narratives throughout the film, such as Amara’s troubles at school or Adonis’ mother’s ailing health, among others. Moments like these only take up a couple of scenes of the film (at maximum) and are often completely abandoned as the film’s central narrative develops and takes over the story.
This is Creed III‘s central problem: there’s just too much going on. It’s difficult to care about the characters because, unlike the first two films, they aren’t written compellingly, aiming to get an emotional response from the viewer but falling short all the same. The narratives themselves, particularly those in the film’s first half, feel unnatural and overdeveloped, existing solely to set up the final fight between Adonis and Damian. The film’s attempt to introduce Damian, show off his boxing skills and get him into the ring–all within the first act–makes everything happening with his character feel amateurish and rushed.
Another reason Creed III falls short of its predecessors is that, in this case, Adonis isn’t tasked with fighting an established fighter. Instead, the character must build Damian’s reputation before the film’s central conflict can even begin. This element makes the film’s two halves feel completely independent of one another, with different tones and themes. It’s hard to decipher if the film is supposed to be about someone moving on from a career that has completely defined their life or if it’s just supposed to be another boxing movie. Because the film tries to have it both ways, it unfortunately loses both its emotional undertones and the high stakes necessary to sell its final act.
That’s not to suggest that Creed III doesn’t have emotional undertones. The power of the past drives both the film’s plot and themes. The entire conflict between Adonis and Damian exists because of an event that took place when they were kids, unpacked through multiple flashbacks throughout the film. The film tries to hold back key information as long as possible, hoping to make a grand reveal in the final act. Again, the problem is that the eventual reveal is so obvious that waiting 90 minutes for it quickly gets tiring and unfulfilling, rendering individual plot beats ineffective as a result.
Regardless of these flaws, Creed III is still quite entertaining. While the film does feel like a soap opera at too many points, it’s hard to look away from the drama as it unfolds. The fights, while less prominent in this film compared to the first two, are fun to watch and are framed and shot well, using various artistic touches to help them stand out from other boxing films.
The film also boasts great performances from its entire ensemble. As always, Jordan is fantastic, possessing the charisma and intensity necessary to sell his character’s oscillations between boxing and retirement. Majors, who has been having a great year so far–playing in Magazine Dreams, one of the most-watched films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and the newest Marvel film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania–is astonishing. The two perfectly capture the emotionally charged tensions between their characters, selling the film where the script falls short. (www.creedmovie.net)
Author rating: 5/10
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