Franchises and cinematic universes always show us one thing, keeping a series going is hard. Storylines burn out, actors get tired and movies lose steam, especially going into trilogies. This hung in my head walking into Creed III. This movie is an extension of an already storied franchise, do we really need another one? Is this one “a contender?” Or is it doomed to be yet another dramatic box office K.O?
Creed III continues the story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). Life is good now that he’s retired. His family keeps him young and his work as a gym owner and boxing promoter keeps him active. However, when a friend from his past returns (Jonathan Majors) both must contend with long-hidden demons. Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, and Mila Davis-Kent co-star in the movie. Michael B. Jordan directs Creed III from a script by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin.
Creed III manages an impressive feat. This sports movie and sequel stands solidly on its own two feet. It doesn’t sag with intellectual property “itis.” It is confident, self-assured, and fully invested in developing the rich characters populating this world.
Creed III is by far and away an acting master class. This is particularly true thanks to Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors in the lead roles. Both are generational acting talents and seeing them face each other on-screen is electric. They are pitch-perfect as former friends who find their lives in very different places. Majors brings a performance that is physical, dynamic, and unrelenting. Jordan meanwhile is quieter and more contemplative. He shines in Adonis’ more dramatic moments.
These powerful performances bring a sense of natural beauty to this boxing picture. While Majors is certainly the “villain” of the piece, to him this man isn’t the villain in Creed’s tale. Damian is a man at the center of his own story. Majors brings a relatable pain and desperation to this character. Both Majors as well as the narrative are aware of who Damian is. We understand his past and with that, it’s painfully easy to see what drives him. While we might not understand his methods, we feel what he’s going through.
Sports movies can often feel like a race to get to the action. Luckily, Creed III doesn’t shy away from the quiet moments. Jordan achieves beautiful chemistry with Davis-Kent as his daughter Amara. At the same time, Creed’s scenes with Bianca (Thompson) are alternatively comfortable and poignant.
In the hands of these actors, Jordan and Thompson bring a stunningly real couple to the screen. Adonis and Bianca are happy, they’re beautiful and they’re incredibly hot for one another. At the same time though, these are two individuals. Both are going through their own struggles, living their own lives and they don’t always understand each other. Marriage isn’t always easy.
Beyond the dueling brothers and “David and Goliath” narrative, this movie makes poignant points about dreams, loss, and grief. It’s a uniquely human thought (especially as we age) that life hasn’t always gone the way we want. Life can punch you in the face and it does hurt. This is a communal and deeply relatable feeling and the powerful use of this narrative in Creed III gels with the performance to powerful effect.
Michael B. Jordan steps in to make his directorial debut on Creed III. Jordan, unsurprisingly, is an actor’s director. His camera lingers on his performers in very tight close-ups. He isn’t afraid to let these talented players show what they can do and the film revels in the power of their emotions.
On the other hand, though, these flourishes aren’t necessarily best suited for a sports movie. His unflinching camera does find a bone-crunching power in the boxing sequences. However, he struggles to really establish these characters in a vital and interesting world.
Creed III is a beautiful “LA movie.” He makes use of iconic and intimate Los Angeles locations in unconventionally beautiful ways. This is seen in the striking use of fog and gloom. This is an image we don’t often see in depictions of Southern California. However, it is unfortunate that we rarely can appreciate the world beyond the establishing shots.
It is a rare gem of a movie when I can comfortably complain that it should be longer. Creed III is a breezy hour and fifty-five minutes with a pace that never lags.
Ultimately, the most significant cuts seem to have happened in the script. Certain important plot points remain undeveloped until deep in act two. Other relationships can certainly use more development and more emotional payoff. In the grand scheme of things though, these changes would only make this beautiful movie better.
The prevailing pattern in Creed III seems to be “more”. Give me more story, give me more of these characters in this world. Heck, if I’m arguing a movie can be longer, it means something. For the third entry in an IP franchise, Creed III is something special. These characters are well-worn and comfortable, but they have plenty of life left. At this rate, this writer could easily get behind “Creed IV.”
Creed III debuts in theaters around the country on March 3, 2023.
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