Creed III (2023)
"Creed III" stars Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, and Phylicia Rashad. Releasing on March 3, 2023, the film has Adonis Creed battling his childhood friend.
The film features the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan. It is the ninth installment in the "Rocky" franchise. The son of Apollo Creed has come a long way since he debuted in the Rocky Balboa universe in 2015. With the support of Balboa himself, his stepmother, and love interest Bianca, Adonis Creed strived in an uphill battle to become a successful heavyweight boxer while learning about his father's history. However, this latest chapter in Creed's journey will see him facing a challenge more personal than Ivan Drago's son. When Ryan Coogler's "Creed" stepped into the ring in 2015, the film proved to be a successful and well-crafted successor to Sylvester Stallone's iconic boxing franchise. More importantly, it puts the likes of Coogler and Michael B. Jordan in the film industry spotlight. While Coogler didn't return to direct the sequel, "Creed II", that didn't stop it from being as successful as its predecessor, thanks to Steven Caple Jr., who's helming the upcoming Transformers film. Five years later, we finally got the long-awaited continuation that sees Jordan in the director's chair and has him fighting against Kang the Conquerer himself, Jonathan Majors. With that in mind, let's step into the ring again and see if it packs enough punches to continue the franchise.
Set after the events of "Creed II", the story has Adonis Creed (Jordan) thriving in his boxing career. He's also living a healthy life as a family man, raising his daughter, Amara Creed (Mila Davis-Kent), with his wife, Bianca Taylor (Thompson). One day, Adonis encounters a familiar face from his childhood, Damian Anderson (Majors). Damian is a former boxing prodigy seeking a shot in the ring after his long prison sentence. However, Damian's obsession with being on top made him more ruthless and dangerous than any other boxer in the sport. Not only that, but Damian is also determined to steal the boxing crown from Adonis. With his career and personal life on the line, Adonis must come out of retirement to fight his former friend, who has nothing to lose.
"Creed" is a legacy sequel that would've been seen as a cheap attempt to cash in on the franchise that made Stallone a household name. Instead, it became a surprisingly effective and uplifting installment that honors the roots of Rocky Balboa through its characters and thoughtful storytelling. The fact that this movie got me fully invested in the franchise definitely says a lot. While I considered "Creed II" a small step down from its fantastic predecessor, it's still a worthy sequel that delves deep into its lore. It also features one of Dolph Lundgren's best performances of his career as Ivan Drago. So it's unsurprising that I was very eager toward the threequel, which has Creed stepping out of Rocky Balboa's shadow for the first time. In short, the prodigy is all grown up and ready to tackle the big boys alone.
This film serves as a test to see if the franchise still has enough appeal to lure in its fans and newcomers. But, more importantly, it also attempts to prove if we're ready to see Michael B. Jordan take over the franchise from Stallone, both as an actor and an up-and-coming filmmaker. So you can quickly tell that there's a lot of pressure surrounding "Creed III" since the iconic franchise is responsible for making Stallone into a household name. However, as soon as I saw the first ten minutes of the film, I immediately knew that the cinematic boxing universe was in excellent hands. With the combination of invigorating storytelling and a fresh new style, this hard-hitting chapter is now three for three regarding the "Creed" trilogy, putting it just a step above "Creed II", but also in the same league as "Creed".
The one major element that makes "Creed III" different compared to the previous installments is the presentation. The first two "Creed" movies have a similar style that reflects the tone of the "Rocky" films. They represent the realism in the boxing realm and the human drama. Both Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr. have done wonders in delivering that presentation in those movies and keeping the legacy of the Rocky universe intact. The realism is still present in "Creed III", but the film offers a few spices to provide a different flavor, mainly for the boxing sequences. As a director, Michael B. Jordan acknowledges the fundamentals that made the previous "Creed" movies great. However, he also understands that he must provide his sense of identity to avoid repetition. Many sequels from different franchises tried to perform that similar feat, with some getting knocked down repeatedly by critics and audiences. Fortunately, "Creed III" winds up being one of the exceptions.
Regarding the direction, Michael B. Jordan has definitely proven himself to be more than just a talented actor. His take on the human drama is heartwarming for the character dynamics and respectfully emotional for its themes. He doesn't rely too much on forcing sentimentality and social commentary down our throats. Instead, Jordan embraces the human connection in the community through his vision of storytelling. It's too early to say whether it's enough to get him an Oscar nomination next year, but I can tell you this: Jordan is going to have a bright future as a director after what I've seen from him.
The screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin has some familiar elements from the other installments, including Adonis Creed coming out of retirement as a reference to 2006's "Rocky Balboa". Fortunately, the script overcame those odds by providing enough moments in the characters and scenarios to make it its own thing. Additionally, it offers a compelling and smart take on the importance of forgiveness and overcoming the past to live a brighter future. It's a tried-and-true story that's successfully lifted by its well-executed script and a cast of outstanding actors. The film also gets credit for its length, which is under two hours long compared to its predecessors, which were around two hours and ten minutes long. It doesn't overstay its welcome, but it's also well-paced for its simple yet effective story.
In addition to his directing, Michael B. Jordan also remains the champ in the acting business. His superb performance as Adonis has been the driving force of the "Creed" movies, not just for his stunts but also his ability to bring life to Apollo's son physically and mentally. His role in "Creed III" is no different, with him injecting emotion and guilt into Adonis due to his past actions. Jordan never fails to impress me, and that won't change anytime soon. I can say the same for Jonathan Majors, who delivers a knockout performance as Damian. With this and his role as Kang in "Quantumania", Majors has proven himself to be a pro at bringing threatening antagonists to life. More importantly, he continues to be an incredible actor through his commitment and talent, and his chemistry with Jordan is undeniably dazzling. Tessa Thompson was also excellent in her role as Bianca, and Mila Davis-Kent succeeded in delivering the heart and charm in her performance as Amara.
"Creed III" continues the franchise's tradition of delivering crowd-pleasing experiences for the boxing sequences. The previous installments were known for providing action scenes that were engaging, hard-hitting, and realistic. "Creed III", on the other hand, goes for a much different approach to representing the boxing world in film. The result is an entirely different beast that should be seen to believe. The boxing scenes are said to be heavily influenced by anime like "Dragon Ball Z" and "Naruto", and it shows. Unlike the previous films, the boxing sequences in "Creed III" are more energetic, swift, intense, and occasionally stylized with significant effect. The best example is the fight between Adonis and Damian in the film's third act. That scene is like something out of a fantasy, or in this case, an anime, which looked odd at first, but after putting much thought into it, it somehow works in a narrative sense. The boxing scenes brought an amount of freshness to the table while maintaining a realistic approach to the sport. Combine that with its immersive cinematography and solid editing, and you get some of the best boxing scenes in the genre.
Overall, "Creed III" steps out of Rocky Balboa's shadow to provide another exhilarating and engrossing chapter in Adonis Creed's coming-of-age journey. Aside from a couple of similarities, the film is a much-needed refreshing take on the franchise that never lost sight of the character dynamics and represented Michael B. Jordan as a promising young filmmaker. Thanks to its incredible cast, Jordan's direction, superb script, and a distinctive approach to the boxing scenes, the threequel packs enough punches to become the first champion of 2023. If you're a fan of the previous "Creed" films and Michael B. Jordan, "Creed III" is definitely worth watching, especially on the biggest screen you can find. In other words, it's a knockout!
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