Creed III Review


William Overbo, Movie Critic

“Creed III” is the second sequel to “Creed” (2015), and is the ninth installment in the “Rocky” film series. The film was directed by and stars Michael B. Jordan and stars Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, and Phylicia Rashad. In the film, Adonis Creed (Jordan) faces off against childhood friend and former boxing star Damien Anderson (Majors).

Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” stands today as one of the most celebrated movies of the past decade, and for a good reason. Its grounded, emotionally raw approach was just the right spin to bring newfound energy into the long-running “Rocky” series. This perspective has only been heightened within its subsequent sequels, with lead actor (and now director) Michael B. Jordan working with Coogler (in a producer role), to deliver some of the most consistent quality ever found in the franchise. It is no accident that when Jordan was given the opportunity to bring his singular visual style, he delivered it in a big way. This film is certainly in the same vein as the rest of Stallone’s “Rocky” movies, and Jordan definitely shares some of Stallone’s storytelling conventions and sensibilities. These overlapping filmmaking philosophies can be found in Jordan’s perspectives on legacy, guilt and loyalty. He expresses these themes in such a uniquely non-literal way for these films, which serves as a powerful callback to the original “Rocky” and its meditation on poverty and pride. 

This growth is from seeds planted by Stallone and Coogler, but it is building and creating something original off of these ideas nonetheless. Jordan finds the meat of the narrative in the hulking “Diamond Dame” Anderson and does just as much work to flush out the other side of the ring as Stallone did with the original Apollo Creed. He gets an excellent physical performance from Jonathan Majors as a betrayed and emotionally scarred brawler who you come to understand and even root for by the end. 

Even with all these elements included with a careful touch, this still feels like a directorial debut in many ways. While Jordan is confident in many aspects of the film’s atmosphere and tone, he sacrifices the grainy visual style of the previous two entries for a more polished look. Some scenes utilize this approach better than others, but overall I prefer the grounded cinematography of Maryse Alberti just a hair more than the look in “Creed III.” 

That is not to say Jordan doesn’t shine brighter than any actor-directorial debut I have seen in the past ten years, as there are a lot of dynamic visual moments that I was not  expecting. The fight scenes are climactic as they have ever been, and are photographed on gorgeous wide-angle lenses that inject more scope into the battles than we have ever seen before. Right from the beginning, Jordan hooks you in with some unbelievable insert shots of punches landing all over the upper body, captured in slow motion, bringing unmeasurable clarity to the violent imagery. 

Even with all the deviations from what is expected from the “Rocky” movies, bits and pieces of this still end up landing as kind of formulaic. But being a little formulaic is far from an unforgivable sin, especially considering the state of sports movies right now. To be honest, I consider it a minor miracle that we received a big-budget, studio-funded movie with such a bold personality, even if not all of it succeeds with me personally. “Creed III” is an entertaining spectacle from start to finish, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone leaving the theater unhappy with it. Even though it toes the line of emulating its predecessors, there are original components that I can only see resonating with me even more after a second viewing.

Final Score: 3.5/5