Creed III (2023) Movie Review: Good boxing films work because of their untamed veracity in filmmaking. On the other hand, great boxing films stand out because they serve as both effective boxing spectacles and powerful character-driven dramas. Thus, the protagonists’ emotional arcs often mirror the struggles they face inside the ring. Now that the majority of successful films in the world appear to be either sequels or reboots of previously established IPs, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disguise a great film when it’s reverse-engineered on the promise of continuing the franchise. Michael B. Jordan’s “Creed III” – the latest entry in the indestructible “Rocky” universe – had all the reasons to succumb to those limitations. However, the film, which also marks Jordan’s directorial debut, sees the actor’s magnetic persona translate on screen with an aplomb command.

Jordan’s Adonis ‘Donny’ Creed has now retired, setting down his gloves and focusing on building his family. He spends the time living at the center of his Los Angeles home, along with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). But meanwhile, he also is someone in the industry who is unable to truly step out of the spotlight, as his towering open terrace lavish house suggests. However, as anyone familiar with the template of boxing films could tell, he’s one day forced back into the ring when a person from his past emerges from nowhere.

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Once a Golden Gloves fighter as a teen, Damian (Jonathan Majors) is fresh from prison after having spent 18 years behind the walls. Damian and Donny were like family back in childhood. A harrowing incident, however, dashes the former’s dreams of becoming a successful boxer. Damian now wants to reclaim his boxing glory, a future that could’ve been; hence, he takes matters into his own hands by resuming his supposed trajectory.

In the first two films, Sylvester Stallone was a signature character as Creed’s avuncular trainer but remains absent from the third. His presence in the earlier movies ensured that the staggering 47-year-old franchise remained tethered to the legacy his underdog story had created. Ryan Coogler’s extraordinarily crafted 2015 film worked because it ensured the senior actor’s presence served an equally important thematic purpose. He also incorporated underlying themes of American society’s complicated relationship with the social and cultural abandonment of its minorities.

Jordan’s approach in the latest film works because it continues the rich filmmaking echoes of the earlier films while also injecting a mythology of its own. By incorporating a structural framework that feels equally interested in its protagonist’s past traumas, Jordan deploys a heavy influence from Anime without shying away from acknowledging them via cheeky easter eggs. There’s also a considerable emphasis on further placing the country’s tormenting legacy with state violence.

Creed III

“It takes work to look at the past,” a character says at one point in the film. Thus, the choice of going back to Creed’s troubled childhood at a group home serves a rich thematic purpose here. Only after coming out of the shadows of Rocky’s astute command does Creed become subject to the torments of his own past. The previous 2018 film, devoid of the unpredictable story arc as well as the filmmaking command of Coogler’s first film, killed the suspense factor because the audience already knew that Rocky would eventually have his young trainee’s back.

The screenplay establishes a rich narrative thread and a parallel between Bianca and Damian. Once a rock singer, the former’s career is now cut short by progressive hearing loss, while Damian deals with the brutal reality of his career being cut short by systemic consequences beyond his control. While the film could’ve explored more on that dynamic to spill over my tension into Creed’s household, it still renders strong character motivations. It gets even better reinforced on screen with Majors’ imposing presence. There’s a menacing unpredictability his persona instinctively translates on the screen, which makes him more threatening. Still, his eyes exude vulnerability that makes you curious to delve down his memory lane.

“Creed III” brings with it the much-needed optimism that ultimately remains and acts as a testament to how the audience would not feel the franchise fatigue as long as the films they watch exude enough artistic and storytelling grace. Another big-budget franchise film that came out a couple of weeks ago – “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” – had the same actor playing the antagonist. Yet, it relied on storytelling ambition by watering down the execution aspect of it. Somewhere between all the noise, studio executives and filmmakers need to realize that among the excess content out there, they need to find better ways of telling stories that don’t treat the audience like unapologetic passive viewers.

Jordan’s direction here feels controlled even when the characters’ emotional arcs on-screen build toward a crisis. As a result, the presence of the story’s antagonist feels threatening and worth rooting for even outside the ring – it doesn’t merely come across as a red herring. Along with its crisp two-hour runtime, the film elevates itself from being a good boxing drama in a pool of mediocre franchise-based films.

Related Read: Creed III (2023) Movie Ending Explained: Did Adonis Creed retire for good? Is there scope for Creed IV?

Creed III (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Creed III (2023) Movie Cast: Michael Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors
Where to watch Creed III

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

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