THE STORY – Still dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed is thriving in his career and family life. When Damian, a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, resurfaces after serving time in prison, he’s eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian — a fighter who has nothing to lose.
THE CAST – Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu & Phylicia Rashad
THE TEAM – Michael B. Jordan (Director), Keenan Coogler & Zach Baylin (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes
The question of legacy and forging your own path has been a central theme of the “Creed” films, and Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) discovers the answer to this in “Creed III.” After building upon the legacies of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), what will Adonis Creed’s legacy be once he hangs up the gloves? After settling into retirement by enjoying his time with Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) and Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Donnie is content with where his life is. He does not need to look back on what he left behind until his past is found leaning up against his car outside his father’s gym.
Before Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) was released from prison and re-entered Donnie’s life, Donnie was fine at keeping his past locked away, even from his mother, Mary-Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad). After all the success, he doesn’t find it necessary to contend with his past in order to truly know peace and leave a legacy that he can be proud of. It turns out Damian and Donnie knew each other from one of the foster homes Donnie lived in, and the two bonded over their mutual love of fighting. Their lives changed forever after a run-in went wrong, and while Donnie ran away, Damian had to watch from behind bars for eighteen years the life he was meant to have. Now that he’s out, Damian will stop at nothing to go after his dream and tear down Donnie’s in the process.
As Donnie takes hit after hit professionally and personally, he finally faces the past by opening up to Bianca, who encourages him to take his talking to the ring one more time for the battle of LA. Training with friends like Little Duke (Wood Harris) and former competitors like Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), Adonis faces his former friend hoping to deal with their past and find closure in the process. What we get is an impassioned fight that means more to the two men than the crowds will ever know.
As directorial debuts go, Michael B. Jordan does come out swinging. Teaming up with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau from “Creed II,” Jordan and Morgenthau step up the franchise’s visual storytelling, particularly within the relationship between Adonis and Damien. Shots are framed in a way that highlights how these former friends are two halves of the same coin. Regarding the fight scenes, audiences are taken into the ring as they’ve never been before, especially if they choose to see the film in the IMAX format. Some of the shots give flares of action scenes found in Guy Ritchie movies; the opening fight in South Africa is reminiscent of “Sherlock Holmes” as Robert Downey Jr. fights in the ring while sizing up his opponent. It reflects Donnie’s precision and strategy after being a world champion for years. Morgenthau and Jordan make the creative decision to shoot Damian and Donnie’s climactic fight in a way unlike we’ve seen in the previous “Creed” films that amps up the story’s emotional stakes.
While the film concentrates on Donnie’s past and his family’s future, noticeable differences separate it from the previous “Creed” films– the lack of Rocky Balboa. A character with such a heavy involvement in both “Creed“ and “Creed II,” behind and in front of the camera. Even though there is a scene, in particular, involving Mary-Anne that would have made sense to see Rocky again to provide one more motivational talk to Donnie, this film does not need Sylvester Stallone to succeed. However, because this is the third film in a spin-off trilogy part of the “Rocky” franchise, not having him there feels incomplete.
What makes up for the lack of Rocky is Jonathan Majors. Continuing his hot 2023 from “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (which will continue later this year with “Magazine Dreams“) Majors immerses himself in the character of Damian. For one, he is physically imposing; you see the power he possesses with every punch he throws. However, his performance exceeds his boxing choreography and impressive workout routine. Every tick and every look Damian gives Donnie is packed with so much history and, above all, pain. Damian feels betrayed by his friend, whom he once viewed as a brother, and Majors significantly elevates the tension with Jordan, which makes his character more of a threat.
The women of Adonis Creed’s life also deserve to be highlighted. Tessa Thompson’s Bianca continues to be the emotional anchor for Adonis throughout the trilogy. Though they hit a roadblock in the film, her patience for her husband provides the safety he needs to open Pandora’s box of his history with Damian. Phylicia Rashad is also given her time to shine with some intense scenes between Mary-Anne and Donnie regarding his past and the conversations that were had too late. The fallout is devastating and a testament to the talent of Rashad for drawing out tremendous emotion from very little screen time.
For Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut, it is clear that he has an immense love for this character. Taking the lessons he has learned by working alongside exceptional directors like Ryan Coogler, he satisfactorily ties the bow together at the end of Adonis Creed’s story. Just as Creed’s fight with Viktor was necessary for “Creed II,” Donnie and Damian’s fight is every bit climatic and poignant. While there could have been some fine-tuning in the middle, where the story starts to slow down, “Creed III” brings this boxing trilogy together, allowing Adonis Creed to take a bow with the legacy he’s rightfully earned.