CREED III (2023)
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Alex Henderson, Spence Moore II, Tony Bellew, Selenis Leyva, Jessica McCaskill, Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran, Canelo Álvarez, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Mila Davis-Kent, Jude Wells, Sherri Belinda Quinones and Michelle Davidson.
Screenplay by Keenan Coogler & Zach Baylin.
Directed by Michael B. Jordan.
Distributed by United Artists Releasing. 116 minutes. Rated PG-13.
In the 47 years since the original Rocky was released, the film franchise has spawned nine films – six Rocky titles and now three Creed movies. Of all those films, Creed III is the first of the films in which Sylvester Stallone has not been involved as an actor and/or a writer. In fact, Stallone does not appear to have been involved in the film much at all. And his character of Rocky Balboa is not mentioned once in Creed III.
Stallone does get a producer’s credit, but that seems to be mostly contractual, judging from some of the complaints that Stallone has been airing in recent months about series producer Irwin Winkler hijacking his story from him. Stallone also gets a credit of “Based on the characters by…,” but honestly other than the dead character of Apollo Creed (originally played by Carl Weathers and killed off in Rocky IV) being discussed several times by characters in this film, and a huge portrait of the former champ in his son’s gym, none of the characters in Creed III seem to have been from the original Rocky movies. Technically, maybe you can also count supporting character Viktor Drago (played by boxer Florian Munteanu) as one of Stallone’s creations, too, because he was the son of a Rocky IV character, who was introduced in Creed II, which Stallone co-wrote.
However, considering that Creed II – which is the only one of the Creed films that Stallone had a hand in molding from a story aspect –was by far the worst of the now three Creed films, perhaps it is not a bad thing that the Creed films are distancing themselves from their original creator.
Creed III returns the creative reins to the Coogler brothers who were also in charge of the first Creed film, which was such a refreshing change from the slightly long-in-tooth original Rocky series. Keenan Coogler takes over the screenwriting responsibility from brother Ryan (who was busy working on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), although Ryan also helped to develop the story of Creed III. Not only that, but star Michael B. Jordan takes over for Ryan Coogler as a first-time director.
Honestly, Creed III is not as good as the original Creed film, but it is a definite step up in quality from the disappointing Creed II.
The weird issue is that to a certain extent, the first two Creed movies were revamps of earlier Rocky stories – with Creed giving a ghetto update to Rocky and Creed II being an odd mashup of Rocky II and Rocky IV. And although there are a few echoes of Rocky III in Creed III, for the most part this is a pretty original take on the storyline.
It doesn’t always work. There is a slightly melodramatic death of an older character (not unlike Rocky III). Also, the scenes with Adonis Creed (Jordan) and his cute deaf daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) – while humanizing for Adonis and showing him to be a good father – end up wearing out their welcome long before the end of the film.
However, the main storyline – in which an old friend from Adonis’ streetwise childhood returns from a long jail stint to become his nemesis – is rather intriguing.
That returning character is Damian (played by Jonathan Majors, a mere weeks after he was introduced as the latest MCU antagonist Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.) As kids, Damian and Adonis both wanted to grow up to be boxing champs. However, one night when young Adonis got into a fight and Damian pulled a gun to protect him, Adonis got away from the police, but Damian ended up spending time in jail.
Damian is finally out of the joint not long after Adonis has retired from the ring. Damian shows up, hat in hand, looking for help to become a boxer, as he has kept himself in shape. Adonis feels guilty and tries to help, but when that help succeeds Damian allows the anger that he has felt for years to bubble over and starts antagonizing his old friend to come back to the ring and get a major beat down.
The character of Damian is a bit of a puzzle, honestly. At least twice in the running time of Creed III, he has a major shift in personality and priorities. While it is understandable that he’d have bitterness for going to jail for all these years for something he did to protect his friend, the whiplash of his feelings gets a bit overdone.
Still, while it was far from a perfect chapter of the franchise, at least Creed III puts the franchise back on the right footing. It may be interesting to see where the Rocky-verse goes next, which is not a statement that you could always make.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 2, 2023.