Creed III has finally arrived; the third entry in the spin off series from the famous Rocky franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. This entry however, is the first of the nine movies to not star the Italian Stallion himself. The reasoning behind Balboa not appearing in universe is likely as the film takes place in Los Angeles and Rocky lives in Philadelphia. Behind the scenes there is another story at play, one involving the rights to the franchise that Stallone wants back. Now is not the time to dive into that mess though – let’s take a look at Creed III.
Currently still playing in theatres and now available through the Film & TV section of the Xbox Store, Creed III has currently earned over $272 million worldwide, making this entry the highest grossing of the Creed franchise. Directed, produced and starring Michael B. Jordan as the titular Adonis Creed, it is safe to say the film has so far been a success. Alongside Jordan, there are a few players from the Marvel Cinematic Universe here: Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Jonathan Majors (Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania’s Kang) and Wood Harris (Gale) are all along for the ride.
Creed III sets the scene years after the previous movie (Creed II) where Adonis has retired and settled into the role of manager to the new champ, Felix Chavez. Played by professional boxer José Luis Benavidez Jr, Felix never really comes across as a strong champion like Creed, or even Rocky in the original movies. The story shows us elements of the past previously unseen, mainly an incident involving Creed, his best friend Damian and an abusive care worker from the group home they both resided in.
Remaining mostly spoiler free, the movie weaves a story of brotherhood and childhood dreams. After the incident with Leon, Damian ends up in jail for eighteen years. On release from prison he pays a visit to Creed to catch up, initially seemingly proud of his friend and refusing the monetary help offered by Donnie. Instead Dame is after something else he feels he lost out on by being imprisoned – a chance to fight the world champ.
Speeding things along, the opportunity seemingly appears to be fate after the current challenger (Drago from Creed II) is assaulted, leading to a replacement fighter being required. There are a few twists and turns to the events of this “fated opportunity” that I won’t reveal here, but let’s just say that things weren’t just falling into place by chance. The acting between Majors and Creed was decent enough to convey a previous friendship, but there was something lacking that meant I just couldn’t buy fully into their camaraderie.
I really enjoyed every scene with Creed and his wife Bianca talking to their daughter Amara. See, Bianca has progressive hearing disorder, and this led to Amara being born deaf. They really went out their way to highlight sign language throughout the movie’s subplot, and I felt this was done really well. Amara has been getting into trouble at school by getting into fights, yet instead of punishing her, Creed decides to begin to train his daughter so she learns control and discipline.
Back to the main course and we focus on Dame and his goal to become heavyweight champ. Things take a turn for the worse when Damian gets a bit too big for his boots and begins to fight dirty. Foreshadowing for this was seen in the sequences in Creed’s gym while he was sparring; this leopard just cannot change his spots. Arguments ensue, and this attitude shift from the seemingly humble Dame we met at first to arrogant and bitter, enrages Creed.
It’s about here where I must mention that some minor spoilers are upcoming.
The final fight is a bout between best friends turned bitter rivals; the old classic set up. There are vibes of Rocky V here, with Creed versus Damian definitely reminding of Rocky V’s Tommy at the end of that movie. This time though the fight isn’t in the streets, but in the ring, although that fight between former friends had much more heart and soul than this does. That said, Creed comes out of retirement to end it all with his friend “one last time”.
The cinematography of the fights found in Creed III are absolutely superb. There’s a real gritty feel despite all the shine and polish that comes to the surface. Notably the golden hues and colour choices made during the bouts make for an “old timey” classic era feel. I enjoyed these scenes more so than the fights from the first two films, but that’s not to say that Creed III is without its issues; there are just some points that just didn’t work for me.
Certain sections of the film seem really unbelievable, more so than ageing under dog Rocky getting a title shot in the original. Dames’ jump to heavyweight challenger feels rushed, Creed managing Chavez and putting in a word doesn’t feel earned or fought for by Damian. Despite the backstory of Dame being a great prospect, I just couldn’t buy into his sudden rocket to the main event spot. Another niggle for me was found in the stakes – sure we accept Creed had a best friend before all his success, however, I felt more of a connection to Rocky and Tommy Gunn by the end of Rocky V.
There are also strange choices for the final fight, featuring sections where jail cell bars appeared around the ring in some CGI madness. I get the symbolism, but it feels like a really weird choice to drop into the adrenaline rush of a fight at play. I’m far away from being any sort of director, but a straightforward slug fest with the crowd visible at all points would have been preferable. This would have made for an ending that I could have sunk into and bought rather than a kaleidoscope of green screen backgrounds to hammer home the main points of the film.
Strange directional choices aside, Creed III is an exceptionally good movie and the subplot with Creed’s daughter learning to box certainly lays the foundations for a potential sequel or spin off movie in the future. However, I would rather see one more movie featuring Creed with Rocky by his side before we move on to anything else.
While this may not be my favourite of the Rocky (or Creed) franchise, it definitely ticks enough boxes to be a film you will watch again and again.