The story continues for Adonis Creed in this film of brothers turned rivals. Yet underneath the surface lies a story of missed opportunities with a “there but for the grace of God” message. Directed by Michael B. Jordan with a screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, only some things about Creed III lands. Based on a story by Ryan Coogler, its power lies in love for its established series and its emotional impact. Creed III lands hard even when it should soften the blow. But swinging big is commendable; the film overall rises dramatically with the knockout performance of its cast, in particular Jonathan Majors.
The entire crew returns to the film franchise, except for Sylvester Stallone’s titular Rocky. Here Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is retired, focusing on training the next generation of boxers alongside Duke (Wood Harris), and cares for his young daughter, Amara (Mila-Davis Kent). His wife Bianca (Tessa Thomspon) produces music rather than performing to retain what’s left of her hearing for as long as possible. It’s gratifying witnessing the familial relations between the trio, and the representation in this adds a layer of joy. But trouble arrives in the form of Adonis’s old friend Damian (Jonathan Majors), who recently left prison after almost twenty years. Creed III‘s setup of critical characters is one of its strongest points.
Creed III Has Tense Moments, But Some Artistry Does Not Match
Creed III may telegraph future problems in the movie before they arrive, but that’s part of its charm. It’s the when “will it happen” instead of “what will happen moments.” The former is harder to pull off in a way that maintains cinematic tension and audience engagement. Fight sequences are pulse-pounding, especially the final matchup between the pair. The training sequence did have a section that felt too busy, leaving you floundering to focus. But the rest, showing a flurry of punches with the trainer, elevated the film. It wasn’t actors training to box but boxers readying for a bout. The fights felt authentic and beautifully captured on video.
A few scenes felt too artistic and heavy-handed. They did not match the grit of Damian or the glam of Adonis. Particularly during their match, which chose to visually convey that no one else exists as they square up. It not only feels unnecessary but pulls you out of the scene. Jordan and Majors effectively communicate laser focus toward each other, and the audience sees this. But the stylized choice reminded me of Bella and Edward’s wedding from Breaking Dawn Part One. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. Other scenes stand out in breathtaking splendor, such as when Feliz Chavez (Jose Benavidez) walks to the ring. That moment brings an ear-to-ear grin.
Musically, sounds are dramatic and overly heavy. It befits its Rocky origins. But it falters at bringing a memorable anthem. During dramatic scenes, the crescendoing music detracts. Allowing the actors to breathe emotional life into the moment is more impactful. This cast can handily pull it off. Dialogue-wise, there were occasional falters. There’s a scene where a ringside commentator said something that felt incomplete, which left me wondering if the screenplay missed something.
Enraptured Acting with Majors as a Standout in Creed III
Damian is a buildup of hurt and rage, and Jonathan Majors’ flawless performance balances those teetering emotions. The only comparable boxer role that springs to mind recently is Tom Hardy’s in Warrior. Michael B. Jordan provides a top-level performance as Adonis struggles to bottle the emotions from the past he wants to stay buried. But Damian’s mere presence forces it to the surface. Mila-Davis Kent is stunning in her role as well; joyful one moment and ready to throw down the next. The performances from the two leads are masterful, though Majors outshines Jordan. Their online chemistry is magnetic, with a palpable tension in every word and silence.
Two other performances that stood out were Jose Benavidez and Selenis Leyva, who plays his mother, Laura Chavez. Jose’s quiet man-of-few-words acting broadcasted power and faith in himself and those around him. Selenis Leyva needs more starring roles because she was astonishing in Orange is the New Black. Her character is the rock and trusted guide for Jose. She knows when to put her foot down or listen to her son’s thoughts, and they easily demonstrate their bond.
The story of two friends so close they are brothers whose paths diverge is not new. However, the disappointing aspect is how the film primarily handles Damian’s incarceration. It ignores factual racial discrepancies that see Black youths locked away for extended periods. Few films address this issue head on. Seeing so many characters write off Damian as someone with a chip on his shoulder feels insulting. There is justification for his pain. Furthermore, Damian’s older now and doesn’t have time to wait for opportunities. Some of Damian’s actions felt uncharacteristic, as though they existed solely to drive home his villain status.
When Adonis discovers his mom, Mary Anne’s (Phylicia Rashad) past actions, rather than fully addressing it, the film cops out, minimizing the pain of her choice. The tone of Creed III felt judgemental akin to bootstrap rhetoric in parts, and that tired message of hard work and meritocracy needs to retire. To paraphrase Duke’s words, it’s time to stop looking at what we all hoped existed and look at what does exist.
Creed III‘s parts do not form a cohesive whole. There are musical misfires, disjointed cinematography, and some questionable dialogue moments. Yet the entirety rises beyond its occasional faults. Creed III provides a theatrical film with blistering fights, heart, and fortitude worthy of inclusion in the spinoff series. Despite some misses, I’m interested in where Michael B. Jordan’s directorial career heads next. With a dynamic, talented cast, Creed III delivers nuanced performances that radiate emotional depth.