Creed III (2023)
Creed III (2023)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: March 3rd, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Michael B. Jordan Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent, Jose Benavidez

 


 

I

n Los Angeles in 2002, 15-year-old Adonis Creed is both infatuated with boxing and about to get into trouble, alongside pal Damian Anderson. This introductory sequence is the start of a lengthy flashback that is cut into pieces, scattered throughout the picture to inform audiences of the motivations behind the climactic battle between boxers. But the most important bits are withheld for an abnormally long time – to the point that it hardly matters what spurs the rivalry once the bout is announced.

After a lucrative career, culminating in a belt for the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Creed (Michael B. Jordan) finally retires. Some three years later, he’s enjoying life with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). He still coaches, however, as he’s unable to completely get away from the sport he loves. As Adonis prepares for the next big fight between Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), a match he’s heavily promoting, a face from the past – Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) – returns, certain to shake things up. After all, Dame has just finished an 18-year stint in prison, making him much older than the average fighter, yet he’s anxious as ever to secure an opportunity at a championship duel. “Let him spar.”

The bulk of the setup is family drama, from Creed’s bullied child to his unwell mother to his wife’s career issues to his own lack of hobbies. Plus, there’s plenty of small talk and catching up to be had between former brothers, eventually delving into the emotionally difficult realm of an unfortunate upbringing. It’s an awful lot of relationship drama, slowing down the pacing and taking away from the only real appeal here, which is action-packed choreography in the ring. Despite Adonis insisting that the sport is all about timing and focus and control – and certainly not violence – it’s doubtful that anyone is terribly consumed by the chess-like elements, instead waiting intently for the heavy blows and slow-motion, face-crunching excitement.

“Everyone loves an underdog story.” But will audiences truly love this same story the umpteenth time around? After a ludicrously contrived scene, the stage is abruptly set for a match between Anderson and Chavez, for which there is little hype, giving it a certain amount of unpredictability. Will it be a fairy tale or a massacre? Either way, they’re both extremely unsympathetic, which merely segues to Creed facing off against Dame, which is clearly what must take place to reconcile the past – a past that is not-so-mysteriously secreted away until entirely too late (the complicated familial crises simply vanish when the final showdown is required). The stakes are pitifully low, especially since the bad blood is invented and defined solely in this episode, unable even to borrow the significance of bringing up relatives from the Rocky sequels (not that that offers much weight anyway).

A villain is needed, so a villain is designated; a fitting combatant is needed, so a fitting combatant is summoned. With generic, bland characters and relationships, “Creed III” feels exactly like it was manufactured from a movie template, infused with fist-pumping montages, motivational speeches, and reparative interactions, playing out woodenly and unconvincingly, despite the decent acting abilities of the cast. It may be a competent enough boxing movie, but it’s just another boxing movie, with absolutely nothing new to say or show. And although it once again features a glimmer of the signature “Rocky” theme in the last seconds of the ultimate bout, there’s not a single mention of Rocky anywhere in the script – which is decidedly wise. He’s completely unnecessary here – though so too is another by-the-numbers Creed adventure. If another sequel follows this one, it had better be about Creed’s deaf daughter; if nothing else, it would be refreshing to see a female lead duking it out in the arena.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10