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Creed III ★★★★



Director: Michael B. Jordan

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Phylicia Rashad and Wood Harris

Release: March 3rd 2023

There’s a reason why the Creed franchise has endured in popularity and critical acclaim. Like its predecessor, Rocky, the films have celebrated the power of the underdog, placing the audience at the centre of a human journey and relating to the identifiable struggles of making dreams come true. For the sport of boxing, that essence becomes a series of chess game manoeuvres involving skill, physicality and mental endurance. But if there is an ultimate reason, the franchise does something Hollywood is often afraid to tackle when revisiting their prized IP in the era of nostalgia – a legacy sequel that’s not afraid of its past and hands over the keys to the next generation.

‘Build your own legacy’ – a resonating statement shown through Adonis’ (Michael’s B. Jordan) POV at the Delphi Boxing Academy, has been the heartbeat of the franchise. Not only does it play to Adonis’ core identity, inheritance and personal reconciliation with the legendary status of his late father Apollo (Carl Weathers), it’s an empowering reinforcement of how anyone can use the past to shape a new future. Now into its third venture, it would be easy to throw in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa for one last ride (Stallone does serve as the film’s producer). But with his happy ending in the closing moments of Creed II, some storylines deserve to be final, and most importantly, for Creed III, to be in the position to carry the mantle and allow the franchise to stand deservedly on its own feet.

As with previous Creed films, the plot is entertainingly straightforward, mixing in elements of Rocky III and Rocky V. Having retired from the sport as champion, the success and wealth of building his personal legacy has brought Adonis onto a new phase of his career as a boxing promoter and trainer for the next generation of fighters, most notably Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez). His family also takes greater priority and precedence as he adjusts to life outside the ring. When his childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) is released from prison, he re-enters Adonis’ life with a determination to have a shot at the boxing championship, and Adonis’s past begins to unravel.

There are some genuine standout moments that writers Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin craft within the script. Its opening sequence and use of Dr. Dre’s The Watcher set the mood and tone but culturally continues that personal insight into Black lives. The partnership of Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) showcases why representation is important, not only highlighting Black love but normalising the experiences of the deaf community through their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). And in a feeling that will never get old, while they’ll never eclipse James Brown’s iconic Living in America, the ring entrances are still a work of art.

But what also makes Creed III special is Jordan’s directorial stamp on the franchise. For Jordan, whose love of anime is no secret, his directorial debut infuses the same framing principles experienced in Dragonball Z and Naruto to accentuate every extremity with each punch – perfectly visualised on an IMAX screen. 

But the direction goes a step further, distinguishing himself from Ryan Coogler’s on-screen info-graphics and one-camera tracking shots in Creed, as well as Steven Caple Jr.’s 120fps camera setup and precise editing to amplify Creed II’s visceral edge to the action. Jordan’s striking eye for detail brings into focus the film’s visual and artistic composition at play, adding subtlety to a boxer’s mindset with close-ups of the fighter’s eyes, the name on their shorts, and creases of their gloves. The epic showdown between Adonis and Damian playfully experiments with its surroundings, utilising lightning and visual metaphors (e.g. a caged ring) to emphasise the past journey the young men have been through, which is more than just titles and boxing legacy. These heightened states of emotions distinctively put Creed III in its own league.

Each film may have adopted a different mood and stylistic texture, but its heart remains its most powerful asset – a notion exemplified through the performances of Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Jonathan Majors.

Jordan and Thompson’s on-screen chemistry remains powerful since their introduction in the 2015 film. Their character’s growth and independence continue to be the focal point for the humour and personal struggles, particularly as they face the increasing challenge of managing their young daughter’s interest in boxing and after a school incident, whether violence and anger is an answer to solving problems.

As the new addition to the cast, Jonathan Majors once again shows why he is incapable of putting in a bad performance. As Damian, there’s an aura of Clubber Lang (Mr. T in Rocky III) and even Mike Tyson in his latter career, based on the ferocity and presence. But Majors provides a multitude of nuances through his facial expressions, where he flirts between vulnerability and Damian’s calculating demeanour. It provides ample fertile ground for Majors to explore those feelings of being left behind, knowing Damian’s boxing ambitions were curtailed by imprisonment as he watched in envy the rise of Adonis Creed.

Even when the storyline rushes towards that final last round, the film makes a very poignant statement about dreams and expectations, be it making up for lost time or how we quantify success in a society where it is measured superficially. These dreams come at a personal cost in navigating those challenges, which is why these stories resonate so deeply.

The flaws are only minor considering how the subsequent Creed films have not surpassed the five-star emotional euphoria of Ryan Coogler’s film. But take nothing away, Creed III is a knockout on emotion, heart and soul, ushering Michael B. Jordan as an exciting filmmaker to watch out for.

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