Review: ‘Creed III’ knocks out expectations

Thrilling fight scenes and compelling characters put the franchise back on course


Photo Courtesy: Eli Ade © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) steps into the ring in “CREED III.”

by Noah Lyons, Staff Writer

Michael B. Jordan is back in the ring as Adonis Creed for “Creed III,” and this time he’s behind the camera too. 

“Creed III” marks Jordan’s directorial debut and the third Creed film he’s starred in. It’s also a significant improvement over the previous installment.

In 2015, Director Ryan Coogler brought the Creed family back to the big screen. The film followed the story of Adonis, the son of Apollo Rocky Balboa’s boxing rival. 

The 2015 film “Creed” was a smash hit, with knockout performances from Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Beyond the acting, the film was well-written and masterfully directed. Unfortunately, the follow-up “Creed II” lacked the punch of its predecessor behind a predictable plot and lackluster supporting performances.

“Creed III” steers the franchise back on course. 

The story follows Creed’s life in retirement, as he spends time with his wife and daughter while managing a local gym. His life is turned around, however, when an old friend, Dame (Jonathan Majors), re-enters his life. 

Jonathan Majors stars as Damian Anderson.
(Photo Courtesy: Eli Ade © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Creed is forced to confront his past and put his boxing reputation on the line. His biggest fights aren’t necessarily in the boxing ring. Jordan’s titular character is challenged in a myriad of ways, giving him more depth and development.

One of the biggest strengths of “Creed III” is the character work. The screenplay, written by Keegan Coogler and Zach Baylin, adds depth to old and new characters and creates a compelling conflict between its two leads.

Dame in particular is given an emotional backstory and complicated motivations. Majors gives an often understated performance but still commands the screen. In seconds, his gentle demeanor can be broken with ferocity. In the more physically demanding scenes, he is an imposing figure. 

Between this role and his work as Kang in “Ant-Man: Quantamania,” it’s clear that his career is quickly on the rise. While the rest of the cast dragged down Majors’ performance in “Quantamania,” Jordan and Thompson are terrific scene partners.

Jordan’s debut behind the camera is equally impressive, especially as he helms the thrilling boxing scenes. The film was shot on IMAX cameras, creating a truly immersive experience. Jordan smartly lets the action unfold with little editing. This resulted in scenes that don’t feel overly manufactured or melodramatic.  

Jordan manages to make the fights feel not just epic, but very personal. 

Director Michael B. Jordan and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau dive into the details of a scene. (Photo Courtesy: Eli Ade © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved)

While much of “Creed III” works well, a rushed second act and an overreliance on clichés are the film’s two biggest weaknesses. 

The opening of the film develops Creed and Dame’s characters and sets the groundwork for the story at a steady pace. Once the film reaches an hour and a half, however, character motivations seem to shift with little buildup.

As a result, the dynamic between Jordan and Majors feels like it could have been unpacked a bit more. Additionally, a pair of storylines regarding Creed’s mother and daughter are sidelined in favor of accelerating the plot. 

The film also suffers from clichés. Some work better than others, as the classic Rocky-style montages were pretty effective. On the other hand, however, some of the dialogue feels forced or obligatory. A majority of these interactions happen in the second act as the drama intensifies.  

Luckily, the film recovers nicely with a high-octane third act. The last 20 minutes in particular are sure to satisfy fans of the franchise.

While “Creed II” fell short of expectations, “Creed III” benefited from lower ones. Despite some flaws in the second act, it is an exciting and well-executed entry into the Creed saga. 

It’s evident that Jordan is passionate about his character and the franchise as a whole. For that reason, “Creed III” is a winner.