Creed III review: A boxing movie with an emotional epicentre
Michael B Jordan impresses both on screen and behind the camera as he makes his directorial debut for this threequel.
Michael B Jordan returns as boxer Adonis Creed for a third – and presumably final – outing in the ring in this spin-off series from the Rocky franchise. The big difference, to the film’s credit, is that this is the first of nine Rocky-related movies where the Italian Stallion has not appeared. That’s quite a step, not to include Sylvester Stallone, who has played the heavyweight contender for more than four decades, back to 1976’s original Oscar-winner Rocky. While the script once mentions Rocky by name, Creed III is a Stallone-free zone.
Jordan even makes the choice to shift the action from Rocky’s spiritual home of Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Initially, in a 2002-set flashback, we see a teenage Adonis (Thaddeus J Mixson) accompany his older friend Damian (Spence Moore II), an aspiring boxer, to his latest fight, competing for the regional golden gloves. Cut to the present day and Creed is the one who took all the glory as a fighter. Damian, we soon learn, has spent the past 18 years in prison for an incident that will gradually become clear.
Creed has retired from boxing and lives in a swish LA home with his now-wife and singer-turned-producer Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). While Bianca, as the earlier films revealed, has a progressive hearing issue, Amara is deaf and there are several scenes where all three are communicating in sign language. While that’s nothing new – think of 2022’s Oscar-winner CODA – it’s rare to see it in something commercial like the Rocky franchise. It’s an impressive touch from Jordan and his team.
The plot kicks in as Damian (now played by Jonathan Majors) is finally released from prison. His first stop is Creed’s gym, where the ex-boxer now oversees other fighters’ careers. ‘Diamond’ Damian Anderson, as he’s called, wants a shot at the heavyweight crown, and he wants his old buddy to engineer it. “Everyone loves an underdog story,” concedes Creed, although at least Damian has kept himself in shape in prison, even adapting his fighting style to survive in such a hothouse environment.
More like this
Like anyone who has been away for so long, he also has trouble adjusting to life on the outside, especially seeing how Creed is now living a contented life of luxury far away from their old ’hood. Inevitably, the spectre of that past crime that sent Damian to prison soon rears its head, with resentments still lingering. Their friendship will be tested, and eventually, recriminations worked out the best way they know how – in the ring.
Jordan truly understands what makes the Rocky/Creed films tick. There is a superb training montage (even featuring an outrageous moment where one of fighters is dragging a small plane along the tarmac!), while the ringside scenes are exactly what you want: bruising, bloody and bone-shaking. It’s a pugilist’s dream, with the epic finale dubbed, aptly enough, ‘The Battle of Los Angeles’.
The film’s huge plus is the casting of Majors as Damian. The actor has just given the MCU a real injection of quality with his performance as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and he brings the same virility to Creed III. What is a slight shame is that Tessa Thompson’s character, rather like in Creed II, is not given a huge amount to do beyond cheering from the sidelines.
Perhaps that’s apt for a film set in this male-dominated world, but it feels like her character has diminished in relevance since 2015’s Creed. Still, her role aside, Creed III delivers what you want, with Jordan impressing both on screen and behind the camera. This is an ambitious film for a debut and he pulls it off with aplomb. A boxing movie with an emotional epicentre, the gloves are off with this one.
Creed III is released in UK cinemas on Friday 3rd March 2023. Wondering what to watch on TV? Visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide or visit our Film hub for more news and features.
Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast.