The Rocky series is one that has never really been a big thing for me, I watched the films out of order and I never got as engaged with them as other people, even though the films were mostly solid. The main film in the series that I’ve genuinely loved was the first Creed film. Ryan Coogler managed to breathe much needed new life into the series, but I don’t think this life transcended into Creed 2. However, with this one, it feels like the Creed series is starting to give itself its own identity outside of Rocky. This is the first film in the series not starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B Jordan is in the directors chair and the resulting film is a solid entry in the series.
Taking place several years after the events of Creed 2, the film follows Adonis Creed, who has retired from boxing and is now acting as a trainer. Whilst he’s doing this, Creed is confronted by Damian, a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy who has spent several years in jail, festering resentment towards Creed. After events lead to Damian getting a boost in his boxing career, Creed realises that he will have to fight Damian, to resolve their issues. What works about this film is it taking a step back and being a more personal story. The other Creed films were more about legacy and being more tied into the wider Rocky mythos. In this film, the focus is directly on Creed as a person, his own history and baggage, with some of the lingering issues of being the illegitimate child of Apollo Creed. The conflict between Creed and Damian feels believable and a good way to reconcile his past growing up in care with his life after being adopted. There are some plot elements I felt could have been explored better. There is a focus on Creed learning that not every problem needs to be solved by fighting, represented by Creed’s daughter and her facing a bully at school, but this element is introduced and never really expanded on, it feeling like there were scenes cut out of the film to resolve this plot. This also holds true for Bianca as there’s a great plot idea raised of her being a music producer due to her hearing issues and some resentment she has over this, but this element isn’t properly explored for more than one scene.
The performances from the cast are solid on the whole. Michael B Jordan has made Creed one of his signature characters and he brings new depths to the character in each of the films. In this instance, you feel a lingering sense of guilt over his treatment of Damian and how he didn’t try and connect with Damian in all the time he was in prison. Through this, there’s a great deal of emotion that Jordan brings in the fight scenes that creates a more visceral connection to them. Jonathan Majors meanwhile continues to show just how good an actor he is. He sells the resentment of Damian brilliantly through his body language and makes him a compelling threat throughout. Every time that Jordan and Majors are on screen together is electric and creates a powerful dynamic between the two that is the soul of the film. Tessa Thompson is also solid here, although her character does feel a bit underserved. She acts as the moral guidance of Creed, knowing when a fight is needed and when it is not, and there is interesting work from her over the changing nature of her music, but it does feel like some of her scenes were cut out. Mila Davis-Kent makes a good impression as Creed’s daughter Amara, having great chemistry with Jordan and Thompson and I really appreciated casting a deaf performer as the character. Phylicia Rashad is strong here, but to say more would spoil the film, and Wood Harris is decent, but his dialogue is a weak point in the film.
The technical elements in the film are pretty strong. Even though this is Jordan’s first time in the directors chair he shows himself to be as skilled behind the camera as he is in front of the camera. Whilst I don’t think the fight scenes here have the same intense feeling, in terms of making you feel like you’re in the ring, as the fight scenes in Creed, there are some great moments of flair. You can feel the anime influence Jordan brings throughout the film, with good use of slow motion and stylisation, with the final fight scene in particular being probably the most unique one in the series. It makes sure that the focus is personal and keeps the focus on the characters. There are some elements I felt were a bit weaker though. I don’t think the training montage here is as strong as in other films in the series, although the on location filming here does have a different feel being in Los Angeles rather than Philadelphia, and giving Adonis his own version of the art museum steps. The music here is pretty decent, but there could have been a more personal feel, mainly with Bianca’s music.
Overall, whilst I still think the first Creed is the best one in this side of the Rocky franchise, Creed 3 is still a strong film on the whole. Michael B Jordan helps to give this film a distinct feel, helping to give the character of Creed his own identity away from Rocky, and focusing on a more personal antagonist makes it feel more intimate, creating a fairly strong emotional connection with the characters on the whole.
My Rating: 4/5