Rob Reviews "Creed III"
I will be the first to admit that I had a struggle when the first Creed film was announced. Ryan Coogler was hot off of the success of Fruitvale Station and along with his star from that film in Michael B. Jordan (and the lukewarm film that was Rocky Balboa), I didn’t know that this was a necessary direction in the straight-into-the-ditch thirty-year history the franchise had before it. I was delightfully surprised by Creed and even enjoyed myself in how the sequel was done even though there could have been less direct parallels to Rocky IV than there was. With the success of Creed II, rumors swirled quickly that the next chapter in Adonis Creed’s story would continue the trend with a tie to Clubber Lang, and I could see that ditch coming again. Luckily, that direction was changed on multiple levels as we dive into Creed III.
Adonis (Jordan) is enjoying retirement and running his gym while supporting the producing career of his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and raising their daughter. While training the current unified world champion, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), a figure from his past re-enters the picture in Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Given their history, Adonis constantly gives “Diamond Dame” the benefit of the doubt to the point of his entire world being threatened and Adonis must defend his legacy both figuratively and literally.
Jordan directs for the first time with Creed III, and he definitely directs the heck out of this film. He makes some bold visual choices (especially in the third act) that for me pay off well to understand not only the action at hand but even what the participants within said action are going through mentally as projections. The story itself gets a bit rushed and head-scratching at times (this is also the shortest of all the Rocky and adjacent films), but that did not take away from my enjoyment of Creed III.
From a performance standpoint, there is also the return of Wood Harris as trainer Tony “Little Duke” Burton, who is always good, but it is going to take some more time for me not to see Avon Barksdale which is not necessarily a bad thing to give some gravity and realism to this character. Phylicia Rashad is also here as Mary-Anne Creed in a performance that opens her talent to full-throttle and needs to be noticed by those that recognize performances. She takes less screen time here but more than makes up for that with a pure acting clinic.
Seriously though, let’s talk about Jonathan Majors. Hot off his performance as Kang in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, this is (pun intended) a one-two punch that should launch him into the much-deserved forefront of any casting director anywhere for anything. I felt his anger and aggression coming off the screen in waves as Damian tries to further his own personal agenda while playing off the sympathies of Adonis in a manner that can only be described as artful.
A March release for Creed III sems a bit auspicious given the holiday releases of its predecessors, but perhaps the studio wanted to get a leg up on the spring and summer releases. I find it hard to believe that there was any form of a lack of faith in a film that is this strong and entertaining (down to its soundtrack, which seems to be a pattern for me as of late), but it also gets put in a slot where it truly gets to shine with not much to challenge it being released within a few weeks of it either way. Definitely crank the audio up to eleven and see this film in an environment that is conducive to its presentation for sure!