Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) and his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are both in new phases of their life, he retired from his sport but running his gym and mentoring new fighter Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), she downshifting into a producer role for other musicians due to her hearing disability, both caring for their feisty, deaf daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). But Adonis left something in his past unsettled and when Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”) shows up one day, the smile on his face distracts from his hidden agenda in “Creed III.”
Laura's Review: B
Working from a story by original director Ryan Coogler (who, along with Sylvester Stallone, produces here), star Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with a trilogy capper far more satisfying than the second film if less so than the first. “Creed III” reaches back to a childhood event in Donny’s past gradually revealed in progressive flashbacks, one complicated by the over-reaching protective instincts of pseudo stepmom Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) and the deep bond and ironically reversed roles once held between Donny and Dame.
Back in 2002, young Adonis (Thaddeus James Mixson Jr.) would habitually sneak out of Mary-Anne’s house at night to accompany his best friend and Golden Gloves contender ‘Diamond’ Damian Anderson (Spence Moore II) to his bouts, carrying his bags and crouching in his corner. But as we will gradually learn, Donny began a fight of a different type one night. Dame drew a gun, Donny drew the cops but he ran and his friend paid the price of an eighteen year jail sentence. Now Adonis doesn’t even recognize the hoodied man leaning up against his luxury car, offering an autograph but perturbed by the overstep. An offer of a meal leads to an offer of help, but Dame turns down a monetary handout, instead asking for something else of his one time brother – a shot at the heavyweight title.
Guilt and a genuine desire to help cloud Donny’s vision, much to trainer Duke’s (Wood Harris) chagrin. Dame’s not cool being offered as a sparring partner for Felix, despite his exaggerated underdog status (he’s even older than Adonis), and comes on way too strong. But he charms Bianca when invited for dinner and she casually invites him to a label party where a mighty coincidental incident presents him with a shot if his old friend will intercede again. (Jordan waffles a bit on narrative clarity more than once, the script by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin leaving opportunities for Machiavellian manipulation on the table.)
It will probably surprise no one that eventually we will see Adonis Creed step into the ring again, but the climactic fight is far from convincing, especially given how well Jordan emphasizes strategy in the first, far better choreographed, fight in his film. Majors makes Jordon look completely out-matched and nothing we see during their fight, in which Jordan indulges flights of fancy like prison bars, tips the scales towards Adonis. A coda featuring Amara throwing jabs in the now empty ring leaves the door open for a female-fronted fork in the franchise.
Robin's Review: B-
Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is on top of the world in both career and family life. His past, though, is about to catch up with him when, after 18 years in prison, his once best friend Damien Anderson shows up on his doorstep and demands a shot at the title in “Creed III.”
If you have never seen any of the “Rocky” movies but want to get the gist of them, then the latest sequel to the Rocky-spinoff series franchise will do the job. And, in Michael B. Jordon’s directing debut, there is not an original bone in its body.
Donnie’s past catches up with him when his childhood friend and protector, Dame, arrives and wants back everything he lost when he defended his friend and went to prison. He wants his due and Donnie gets him a job as a sparring partner. It is not enough for the maligned fighter who wants his shot at the big time. You can pretty much tell what is going to happen from here on in.
As I watched Jordon’s helming debut, I realized it is the epitome of the saying, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” The homage to the original series takes its form on several levels. It tries to reprise the spirit of the Stallone movies but, unfortunately, it is more a checklist of touch points, like Dame taking on a Clubber Lang-like demanding persona of both superiority and disdain – both of which come into play later.
There are no surprises in store for you when you sit down to watch “Creed III,” but what do you expect of a movie that has a Roman numeral at the end of the title? As such, watching is like wearing an old sweater – very familiar and a little comforting.
MGM/UA releases "Creed III" in theaters on 3/3/23.