The first Creed (2015) partly copied the plot of the first Rocky (1976), the sequel from 2018 offered parallels with the fourth part due to the presence of Ivan Drago’s son . The novelty, called Creed III, tries to avoid the obvious imitation of the series from which it arose, which in practice leads to the fact that it is inspired by not just one, but two films from the Rocky franchise. However, despite the lack of originality, it works quite well.
Escape from the past
We meet Adonis Creed ( Michael B. Jordan ) a few years after the events of the second volume, at the end of which Creed defeated Viktor Drago ( Florian Munteanu ) and became the champion. Now retired from the sport, he organizes boxing matches and runs a successful boxing gym together with trainer Little Duke ( Wood Harris ). He also enjoys family life with his wife Bianca ( Tessa Thompson ) and daughter Amara ( Mila Davis-Kent ).
A peaceful life is disturbed by an imaginary ghost from the past in the style of Scorsese’s Cape Horror . Adonis’s former friend Dame ( Jonathan Majors ) is returning to normal life after almost two decades behind bars and wants to continue his involuntarily interrupted boxing career. He therefore turns to Adonis, who feels a little guilty for the unfortunate turn of events at the time.
The first half of the film gives the impression of a Hollywood-polished social drama about a former prisoner with whom his old friends no longer want anything to do with. The cringe atmosphere of the two men’s first meetings could be cut, and it is physically uncomfortable to watch Adonis’ nervousness in contact with a walking reminder of past failures. But after some pressure, he begins to help Damo so that the former boxing talent can return to the ring; initially only as a sparring partner of rising star Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), but it’s clear that Damo’s journey to the top won’t last long. Moreover, there can be no doubt that the grievances of the past will eventually pit the two central powers against each other.
Creed’s rivals from the previous two episodes, Viktor Drago and Ricky Conlan ( Tony Bellew ), also appear in the film, and the newly introduced thresher is the aforementioned Chavez. But the emotional core lies in the complicated relationship between Adonis and Damo, which is impressive thanks to the charisma of Jonathan Majors.
A few days ago, the 33-year-old actor introduced himself as the supervillain Kang in the Marvel movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania , thus ensuring his livelihood and sufficient publicity for several years to come, when he will appear in other MCU projects. Here, however, he proves that he is more than a balanced acting partner for Jordan, who is three years older, and the long-standing dispute between their characters will easily keep the audience’s attention.
Different approaches to grievances
“What’s it like to have someone sing your song?” asks Dame Bianca, who has had to leave her singing career due to hearing loss and “only” produces songs for other artists. Bianca, like Dame, could not fully fulfill her dreams, but she was able to adapt to adversity and is grateful for what she has. Dame can’t do that, his way of thinking about the world clearly hasn’t changed during his time in prison. He fights for his life and sometimes gives out panties without scruples.
While resentment grew in Damo due to his partly unjust imprisonment, Adonis tries to forget the traumas of the past. He doesn’t talk about his feelings and tries to pretend that everything is fine. This is definitely a less anti-social approach than Dam’s, but he’s distancing himself from his wife, so this strategy doesn’t quite work either. “It has nothing to do with you,” Adonis utters an almost classic line towards Bianca. And so, although the successful music producer is a model of how to work meaningfully with one’s own feelings, in the end it is mainly about two men who have to give it to each other in the ring – after all, we are in a sports drama.
In his directorial debut, Jordan certainly does not try to cross the barriers of this genre. It is based on what worked not only in the previous films of the Creed series, but also on the motifs played out in Rocky. From the third part, Dame takes the big mouth and brute strength of Clubber Lang, in both third sequels, the fumbling of boxers after their careers have reached their zenith is also thematized. And we’re reminded of the fifth Rocky again when Adonis takes care of fueling Dam’s career with the same vigor as when the aging Rocky trained the up-and-coming (and similarly ungrateful) Tommy Gunn.
So, in the spirit of boxing films, we will see a turning point in the middle and then another at the end. It is over-stylized, reminiscent of the black-and-white aesthetics of Raging Bull , but above all, like the rest of the film, it prides itself on top-notch craftsmanship. Boxing sequences are often shot from very close up, we can see a lot of details of sweaty muscles, sometimes even in slow motion. Formally, the matches seem very contactable and immersive, but you probably won’t remember anything from them apart from Dam’s street style.
There’s also the necessary training montage, the highlight of which are looks in the mirror, reminding us of the age-old truth that we are our own biggest adversary. All of these obligatory and played properties are presented unsurprisingly, but impressively enough for the film to run along pleasantly. This is also helped by the moderate footage, which, despite the trend of current blockbusters, managed to stop under two hours.
Shift due to arguments
If you’re waiting for a mention of Sylvester Stallone in his most memorable role, you won’t be. For the first time during the nine films made in the framework of the Rocky or Creed franchise, the Italian stallion will not appear on the screen. This is due to Stallone’s long-standing feud with producer Irwin Winkler , the owner of the rights to both film series. In fact, Winkler is planning a number of other sequels, spin-offs and possibly series using the legacy of Rocky and other characters created by Stallone, without adequately rewarding the famous action icon. So money is the reason why there probably won’t be a seventh Rocky and why Stallone won’t even look at a third Creed, as he has said several times recently.
However, the move away from Rocky may ultimately benefit Creed’s franchise. The previous two films benefited heavily from nostalgia, now Adonis will stand on his own two feet and work with what he managed to create. At least that’s how Jordan himself presents the situation. What’s more, a step forward is certainly welcome, but it cannot be overlooked that this is only a very slow, safe step. There are still a number of characters, mainly the sons of their fathers, and the stories presented are variations of what was seen. It’s not necessarily a problem, but it should sound like the Creed series isn’t going to veer off the path blazed by Rocky Balbo.
So the film ultimately offers a safe message that men should learn to express their emotions in ways other than fists. Although sometimes nothing can be done, as evidenced by the boxing ambition of Creed’s deaf daughter Amara to fight life in a similar way to her father. Thus, the third Creed successfully combines the boyishness that their audience expects from boxing movies, with a few non-violently incorporated and undoubtedly sympathetic overlaps that will not outrage sports enthusiasts and delight more sensitive souls. The result can therefore be described as Jordan’s directorial and acting victory, although “only” on points – emotionally knocked out viewers will be rather meager.