Creed III: Legacy, Love and Loss Underpin Michael B. Jordan’s Ambitious Directorial Debut
Creed III Melbourne Premiere provided by Universal Pictures
“Creed III brings together all of the highs and lows of the first two films into what feels like a sign-off for the titular character”
Legacy has always been a focal point of boxing and boxing films. No truer is that than in the Rocky series, especially in the later films as an aging Rocky grapples with how he wants to be remembered, but also with knowing when to listen to his body and call it quits. The Creed series of films has followed a similar formula and its latest instalment, Creed III brings together all of the highs and lows of the first two films into what feels like a sign-off for the titular character.
It’s perhaps even more profound because Michael B. Jordan is now both in-front of and behind the camera. It seems fitting given Sylvester Stallone directed and starred in multiple Rocky films, so it feels like a rite of passage in this franchise and a natural passing-of-the-baton. For what it’s worth, putting Jordan in the directors seat adds an extra layer of meaningfulness to the Adonis story, namely because Jordan, perhaps more than anyone, understands these films and his character to their core.
Opening with a flashback like in the first film, we see a young Adonis Creed (Thaddeus James Mixson Jr) as he sneaks out of his step-mom’s (Phylicia Rashad) house to meet his friend, talented boxing prodigy, and future rival, Dame (played in youth by Spence Moore II and adulthood, by Jonathan Majors). After attending a small bout that Dame wins, they lay their ambitions bare as they look ahead to what’s to come before a nasty brawl sees Dame end up in prison. It’s a short opening sequence but acts as a nice segue and counterweight to the future we cut to where a post-prime Adonis is tussling it out in a rematch with the best pound-for-pound lightweight of the first film.
It’s clear that retirement is on the horizon, and retirement is ultimately what follows (even if short lived), which for Adonis involves entering the promotion side of the boxing business. For the most part, life’s good at the Creed household with his talented musician wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), still pursuing her music but now on the producing side given her progressive hearing loss. The mini-Creed of the household, his deaf daughter Amara (Mila David-Kent), shares the same fighting spirit as Adonis, and their interactions allow Jordan to nicely tie in sign-language throughout the film — using it appropriately for the narrative and as means for more mute, personal moments against the loudness of the boxing scene.
Perhaps more so than in the previous Creed films —or at least in a similar vein to the second film— Jordan’s film favours dramatic lulls ahead of the suspense, tension and subsequent explosiveness of the first film. There’s a greater interest in Adonis’ formative years, and the self-imposed weight he’s had to carry on his shoulders for how Dame’s life turned out. It’s the sort of internal fight that Adonis has maintained throughout the trilogy, but usually it’s been because he’s never felt like he was enough; with Dame, however, he feels like he never did enough for him.
As a result, Jordan is able to mine momentum from the duo when they do reconnect some years later after Dame is released from prison and wanting a title shot. Majors’ performance adds an extra layer of empathy and complexity to Dame that wasn’t felt in any of the other opponents Adonis faced. At times, you’re almost rooting for him to obtain his childhood dream even if the narrative brings your allegiance back to Adonis — a testament to the sort of depth Majors brings to the role.
It’s unfortunate then that those moments between the two characters are few and far between. A good chunk of the film (and this film has a lot going on for the runtime) is spent focusing on the circus around Adonis as opposed to the turbulence of his and Dame’s friendship where you just want them to duke it out and make peace. The pizzazz of boxing and the build-up to a fight just doesn’t feel as enticing because that just isn’t the focus. Sure there are still the familiar pleasures that come with boxing films including sweaty montages and the actual boxing itself when it does happen (which has been the highlight of these films), but the stakes just don’t feel as pressing given the script drags itself from one subplot to the next.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Stallone’s absence is felt, with Rocky serving as the guiding force that has kept Adonis grounded throughout these films. Heck, there isn’t even a mention as to his whereabouts anywhere. But where Creed was an origin story about a man creating his own path with the help of an old mentor, and Creed II was about fighting for what he lost with that mentor’s help, Jordan’s film is about proving he can manage on his own and that it wasn’t all a fluke. Sure there was some baggage along the way for Adonis, but he buries that all here by letting his actions speak — both in and out of the ring.
Creed III opens nationally from the 2nd of March, 2023.
March 1st 2023Read more by Arnie
Category: Entertainment, Features, Film
Topics: Art, Film
Tags: 2023, Boxing, cinema, creed, criticism, drama, film, jonathan majors, michael b. jordan, Movie Review, review, rocky, sylvester stallone, tessa thompson
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