Creed 3 is one of those films that could either be a respectable continuation to a beloved franchise or a soulless cash-grab. But which? Read on to find out…
Adonis Creed’s boxing career is over. He fought his way to the top, honored his legacy, and forged one of his own. He’s pushed into the next phase of life: retired family-man. But a buried memory from Adonis’ past returns to haunt him, and attack his moral compass. Adonis inadvertently ruined his best friend’s life. Does he now owe that friend a shot at redemption (in and out of the ring)?
Let’s first address the elephant in the room: Rocky Balboa’s absence. I was worried Creed 3 would struggle to stand without Sly Stallone in its corner (on or off screen), but those worries proved unfounded! Creed 3 establishes itself firmly as its own entity, no longer beholden to the Rocky franchise. Sure, Creed is still indebted to the lore of Rocky’s world, but foreknowledge isn’t required to enjoy this as a stand-alone film.
Rocky himself is only missed during key plot points of the story. One section was especially glaring, ’cause the character would have wanted to be there. Otherwise, I hardly thought about The Italian Stallion. And that’s a big positive! ‘Cause it means my mind was entertained enough by the film to focus on its story instead of marinating on what WASN’T included.
Michael B. Jordan’s passion is felt throughout Creed 3. He evidently took pains to ensure his directorial debut would be a crowd-pleaser. It’s not a brilliant film, but it’s competently made for a first-timer (heck, even for multiple-time directors).
He imbues the project with a drive, energy, and determination lacking in most films I’ve seen these past few years. Hollywood is in such a sad state that I must commend Jordan for ACTUALLY trying and caring about the product he made. Also important is his respect for the source material. Jordan isn’t looking to trample over the past now that he’s in charge. His humility is refreshing.
Creed 3 is well-paced for its first act before it slows down a tad too much in the second. Then its third breezes by you. But the story’s gradual escalation in tension stays consistent and engaging throughout. So some parts dragged and others flew, yet I was never bored or left wanting.
Adonis and Dame’s mutual backstory is continually teased as a catalyst for Creed 3‘s events. The scenes are emotional and resonant. But they take up too much screen time. I easily guessed the outcome of these flashbacks long before the film actually showed us. And drawing the story out as they did was near insulting to my intelligence. At the very least they could have shown us the whole story upfront and gotten it overwith.
Jordan impressively keeps Creed 3‘s boxing scenes fresh and inventive. He utilizes perspective in fun ways: moving the camera the same speed and direction as fists, going inside the boxers’ minds for Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes-styled analysis of their moves, and exaggerated anime-inspired hits for the fights’ peak moments.
Punches have weight and impact. The combat is fast and intimate. And some of the most brutal moments actually made me recoil (which is hard to do, ’cause I’m so desensitized to movie violence).
My two big disappointments with Creed 3 are the training montage and the final fight. The former was uninspired and dull– especially lacking a compelling showcase of Dame and Adonis’ different approaches to training. And the climax was… anti-climactic.
What happened in that last act felt entirely at odds with Adonis’ character arc. His entire story in Creed 3 is to deal with negative emotions in healthier ways than fighting. Yet he still refuses to back down from a fight which he has no good reason to take, other than wounded pride. Creed’s arc resolves nicely, but his boxing match feels more like a crowd-pleasing necessity than a natural stepping-stone to his emotional growth.
Still Adonis’ story was a highlight of this film. It’s refreshing for a sports story to focus on an athlete’s mental health, and their emotional walls. ‘Cause you probably haves issues if you’re career is to knock people unconscious for a living. His years of pent-up rage result in compelling consequences for Adonis and his family, ’cause of his guilt and stubbornness.
Creed 3 ends Adonis’ story naturally. It ties up nearly all loose ends from this franchise. And I’d be satisfied if this crew never made a 4th instalment. Though Creed 3 leaves the door open for one last story, which I guarantee they’ll capitalize on eventually.
I’ve developed serious respect for the talents of Jonathan Majors. His skills are especially obvious after watching him as two antagonists in two weeks. Diamond Dame is his superior role though. He’s intense, intimidating, cocky, and scarily unpredictable. But Majors plays Dame with enough pathos to make us empathize with his actions. He’s the best part of Creed 3 (as he was in Ant-Man).
It’s a little forced that Dame gets a shot to fight professionally. But I suppose this plot is no more forced than that of Rocky 1. The film even acknowledges Dame and Rock’s similar situations in a clever way (which would spoil too much if I described it further). The context behind it just seemed more outlandish this time around. But it’s not hard to get over.
Creed 3 generally wastes its supporting cast. Everyone puts in above-average to good performances, but they don’t get much to do. Bianca’s role (Tessa Thompson) was especially frustrating because her personal problems were teased then entirely ignored. And the initially intriguing plotline with her and Adonis’ daughter (Mila Davis-Kent) went absolutely nowhere.
Phylicia Rashad is only supporting cast member gifted with meaty material. And she plays it excellently! Her performance is the one, more than any other, which inspired emotion within me. Was her plotline predictable? Yeah. But it was also effective and fitting for this story.
A few technical notes: Michael B. Jordan obviously paid attention to some finer aspects of cinema language, including use of color. Damian consistently appears around green– I assume to evoke his jealousy. While Adonis wears more muted colors than ever to suggest his loss of vibrancy, or faded potential.
Cinematography was also gorgeous! The fights especially featured some stunning and memorable imagery. But Creed 3 felt more visually polished than the last two– which might cause mixed feelings in some fans of this franchise (myself included), as the grittier and more simplistic styles tend to better fit these stories.
Creed 3 was a generally good cinema-going experience. Its acting was consistently good (sometimes great), its direction was confident, and its story was a well-explored character study. Though not every narrative thread came together, and some technical elements weren’t well-executed. But I was entertained.
Creed 3 isn’t in my upper echelon of sports movies (or even Rocky/ Creed movies), but it’s still worth a watch.
IN-DEPTH ANALYSES OF THE ABOVE, AND MORE, ON THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP:
Should there be a Creed 4? What did you think of Creed 3? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,