Creed III is the latest film in the Creed series of sports dramas, the successor to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series following a boxer as he balances out his high-stakes boxing matches with his down to Earth family life. While the third movie keeps to this tradition it’s also one of the more interesting films in the series as it tries to keep the story fresh with a new more personal bend that works well to keep it dramatic and exciting.
As the directorial debut of main star Michael B. Jordan, Creed III not only achieves victory in delivering a more personal story for the character of Adonis Creed in his retirement years but brings in a great new villain and some truly spectacular fights that seems to take a few cues from shounen anime of all places.
Sins of The Past
At the beginning of Creed III, Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed is at the top of the world. The undisputed heavyweight boxing champion, he retires in glory to a loving family and a prosperous managing career. He is married to his producer wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and taking care of his young deaf daughter Amara (Mila Davis Kent). He’s even coaching the new heavyweight champion Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez).
Unfortunately, Adonis’s life is about to be turned upside down by the unexpected arrival of Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors), his old childhood friend who was wrongfully incarcerated for 18 years for a crime Adonis committed. All Damian ever wanted to do was become a champion boxer and while he seems friendly at first, it becomes evident that he’s gonna achieve that goal by any means necessary.
The plot doesn’t stray too far from the usual Rocky/Creed fair. You have another rival coming to take our hero down in a match. After an initial failure, they rise back up, train in a montage, and prepare to succeed in a climactic new match. It’s a formula that has been done many times but Creed III is able to take a fresh new spin on the idea.
The best way to talk about the plot of Creed III is to really start will Creed himself. You can tell Jordan truly understands the character he’s playing. While the past two movies were about Adonis as a rising star, this sees him retiring from boxing and figuring out what he wants to do next with his life. It’s almost a character study of everything we know about Adonis Creed with more of the movie devoted to his personal life, his strained relationship with his wife, mother, and daughter, and confronting the fact that by athletes’ standards, he’s getting older.
Creed knows his body isn’t as strong as it used to be but isn’t quite ready to move on, he still thinks like a boxer believing that the response to his kid punching a bully is to teach her how to fight better. A big part of the movie is seeing Creed changing from that hot heated fighter he was in his youth to a more responsible man who understands what’s important.
Jordan injects the right amount of charisma and personality to pull this development. He’s able to make Creed a more mature and worldly figure but when it’s time to fight you see the fire spark back into his eyes. It’s exciting to see the energy put into the performance. Especially with who he’s up against.
Diamond Dame Anderson
In the span of two months, I’ve seen Jonathan Majors play two villains back to back, Kang in Antman and Dame in Creed III. The fact that these two antagonists are so different in personality and body language but both incredibly intimidating lends great credit to Majors’s range as an actor.
Dame may be my favorite Creed villain so far and that comes down to how layered he is. The dude is unscrupulous in his ambition, he will do anything to become the champ no matter how shady the methods. For him, it’s all about the glory and when his true colors show, we see how cocky and downright disrespectful he really is. The dude may not pull an illegal move but he knows how to skirt the line and get away with underhanded tactics, and gleefully lets his foes know it making him aggressive and unpredictable. By the climax, you can’t wait for Creed to put him in his place.
At the same time, you can’t exactly blame the guy. He spend 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t do while the person who committed the crime got away scot-free and achieved his dream. Now Dame is even older than Creed and is just started his boxing career. You feel the guy’s desperation, knowing he’ll never get back that lost time and he needs to make everything count to catch up.
It makes for an intense rivalry between him and Creed. Every time the two are in the same room, it feels like a bomb could explode at any moment. You know they need to confront the past and you know it’s going to be ugly but you don’t know when it’s gonna happen and there are several times it very well could.
The Remaining Cast
Everyone else in the cast delivers great performances all around. Tessa Thompson is brilliant as Bianca, acting as Creed’s greatest confidant but also keeping in check. This is the biggest role she’s had in the series and you get to see her stand up to her increasingly distant husband through laughs, anger, and tears. I also really liked Phylicia Rashad as Creed’s mother who is as supportive as ever and plays a major role in the backstory between Adonis and Dame leading to a powerful scene that I can’t spoil.
Finally, I should address the elephant in the room which is the absence of Sylvester Stallone in the movie as Rocky Balboa. This series did spin-off from his own after all.
While I love Rocky and would love for Sylvester Stallone to return in future entries, I didn’t feel this movie really needed him. As previously stated, this is a very personal movie about Adonis Creed as a character and him growing more into his own man with his own family and friends. In some ways, it makes sense not to have Rocky as the entire movie is moving away from the previous Rocky storylines into its own. That being said, it does still play that classic Rocky theme at the end and it’s as empowering as it’s ever been.
The Fights That Take The Best Parts Of Anime
Finally, let’s speak about the unique takes on the boxing matches in Creed III. Kramer Morgenthau is back behind the camera and captures the movie with dramatic angles, and dark shadows around the ring to emphasize the fight. He also brings back his impressive use your slow motion for decisive blows, making the audience feel the impact of each show-stopping punch.
Creed III is also a unique first for the series when it comes to the fights. While Creed II emphasized the brutality of the fights, seeing blood spurt from the fighter’s mouths and hearing the crack of their bones being hit, Creed III takes a different approach with inspiration from shounen anime.
Michael B. Jorden has made no secret that he s a huge anime fan and he’s made no secret that shounen anime like Hajime No Ippo and Dragon Ball Z were big inspirations when making Creed III. As a big anime fan myself, you can really see the influence. The fights in the movie not only have an emphasis on faster sakuga-esque choreography but they even use the many point-view shots anime fights are known for. Thankfully no one monologues, but you see some great distorted shots and cuts to previous flashbacks to show the emotions and motivations the characters are feeling.
I can see people not liking the fights for being less grounded and more special effect heavy, but the movie uses these techniques to great results. It understands the fights aren’t just physical but internal. For example, there’s a shot that shows a close-up of Creed’s eyes followed by Dame’s. It’s a simple idea but delivers just how intense the rivalry between the two has become, that they’re so focused on beating the other that nothing else matters. They’re shounen-style fights that feel more faithful to anime than many live-action anime adaptions do.
Creed III continues to legacy up both its predecessors and the Rocky movies, while also carving its own path and allowing Creed to grow into his own person. The story weaves this development perfectly with a nuanced new villain that is both unlikable yet deeply sympathetic and an impressive understanding and use of anime action techniques to make the fight scenes back a real emotional punch.
With this, Creed III earns a spot among the best boxing films by being a medium. It shows the internal struggle of a boxer, and how they can rise above it for the better.
|Dame is a complex and well preformed villain||Some people may not like the less grounded take on the fights.|
|The fight scenes are unqiue and engaging|
|Michael B. Jordan continues to be masterful as Creed|
Creed III is screening in cinemas across Malaysia.
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