It’s the 9th installment of the “Rocky” franchise with “Creed III” as Michael B. Jordan returns to his role as Adonis Creed, the heavyweight champion of the world. But this time, Creed needs to work through the demons of his past which still haunt him thanks to the unexpected arrival of Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a childhood friend who took on for the team. That sacrifice landed Anderson in the penitentiary and now it’s time for Creed to pay up.
The story begins as Creed and Damian are teens (Thaddeus J. Mixson and Spence Moore II, respectively), dreaming of becoming world champs in the boxing ring. Living in a dangerous area and Damian having involvement with entities unbecoming, a crossroads in life presents itself and the two young boys’ paths diverge until now. We fast forward to the current day, flashing back in time to reveal the entire youthful story which fills in all the blanks and explains Creed’s actions and reactions. But it is Damian’s persona that creates the unknowns to set up the ultimate boxing fight in the world.
The story takes much too long to get to the main event, spinning its wheels along the way and delivering seemingly two separate stories that just don’t intersect. It’s well over the one hour mark before we get to the pivotal point in Creed and Damian’s lives. It’s no surprise that Creed will attempt to make a comeback as he (and we) question whether or not he’s too old and too soft. Yes, there’s lots of training moments we get to witness as the champ attempts to get back in the ring. We also have a few side stories of Creed’s mom, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) whose secrets come spewing forth after a momentous medical event. (I wish writers would do the simple task of consulting with a doctor or even googling a term to properly portray it.) And Bianca Creed, Adonis’s wife played by Tessa Thompson whose career in music took an unexpected turn due to a hearing issue, finds that her hubby has some long-buried secrets that affect not only her but their adorable hearing-impaired daughter, Amara (Mile Davis-Kent).
“Creed III” follows the “Rocky” formula to a T, but unfortunately, there’s not much new. The director who happens to be the star of the film needs to lean heavily upon the film’s star power and the cinematic elements to make this movie worth seeing. It succeeds on both levels as Jordan’s “Creed” comes across as the highly successful boxer with an equally successful wife and a beautiful daughter who emulates her father to a fault. We like this family and we are invested in their trials and tribulations as the couple deals with Amara’s school issues and hearing impairment. Jordan also finds just the right notes to create a troubled man whose past is surfacing, not knowing how to adequately address the situation. But it’s Majors’ “Anderson” that provides the more complicated character and thus the more interesting role which allows us to take that roller coaster ride as we initially have sympathy for the man, but ever so gradually (too gradually), he shows his true persona. Majors is a master at this as we’ve witnessed in his skyrocketing career over the last year.
Where this film may give you a TKO is in the cinematography. Brilliantly filmed using multiple angles and slow-motion intermittently, it’s incredibly realistic…disturbingly so. Boxing is a violent sport, one which I personally don’t enjoy, and this cinematic element accentuates those feelings. However, “Creed III” isn’t a boxing story, it’s a story about relationships, loyalty, and sorting through the past to have a more positive future.
If you’re worried that you haven’t seen the eight previous films, do not worry as it’s not necessary. In fact, there are still a few loose ends that I still have questions about as I don’t remember some of the threads of “Creed II” from 2018 and “Creed” from 2015.
2 1/2 Stars