Hollywood is quickly becoming Jonathan Majors’ world, and we’re just living in it.
“Creed III” is the ninth installment of the famed “Rocky” franchise, and features Michael B. Jordan returning to the titular role of Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo. In the film, Creed, now retired from boxing, must deal with the sins of his past when a childhood friend (Jonathan Majors) returns home from prison. Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, and Phylicia Rashad also reprise their roles, with Jordan making his directorial debut, the first film’s director Ryan Coogler returning to produce and co-write, and franchise star Sylvestor Stallone serving as a producer.
I really liked the first “Creed,” and think it holds up eight years later. The 2018 sequel was alright, so despite this being the first installment without Rocky Balboa I was hoping the threequel would be able to recapture some of the magic and swagger that was absent in the second outing. There are a few hiccups, but overall “Creed III” manages to be a rousing time at the movies and an impressive directorial debut for Michael B. Jordan.
One of the jokes about the “Creed” films is to point out how insanely good shape Jordan is in, but Jonathan Majors may give him a run for his money. Majors, who is currently appearing in “Ant-Man: Quantumania” as the villainous Kang, is a physically dominating presence, and a worthy foe to Jordan’s Creed. When we meet him all we really know is he used to be a promising up-and-coming boxer who then spent 18 years in prison, but as the film goes on the layers begin to get peeled back on his true intentions and plans for Creed. Majors hides some pain behind his eyes but wears most of it on his sleeve, and he gives yet another great performance.
Jordan is solid as Adonis Creed, getting a chance to show more tender sides to the character since he is more focused on being a father to his young daughter than taking fights in the ring. The performance is also impressive since Jordan had to worry about directorial duties on top of acting, and I think he does an effective job at both.
Some of the creative choices Jordan makes work, others are staples of rookie directors. He has stated that he took inspiration from anime while designing the fight sequences, and for nothing else the fights do stand out in the franchise. Similar to Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, we get some slow-mo shots and character POVs of punches getting thrown, which puts us into the mindset of the fighters like we haven’t seen in the “Rocky” franchise before. A couple of the visual things Jordan does can be a bit silly or obvious, but this is a franchise built on cheesy cliches, so I admire his desire to shake up the formula if nothing else.
The pacing is pretty good (the film runs 116 minutes), though it does take some time getting to what we all know is coming with Jordan and Majors. I also really like the energy that each of the “Creed” films is shot with, and that’s no different here with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, who also shot “Creed II.”
“Creed III” is an effective boxing movie that features standout performances from all its cast, and while you miss Stallone’s presence on-screen, it is never a distracting absence. Is all of this getting a bit familiar? Sure, but for the third film of a trilogy and ninth of a franchise, “Creed III” shows there is still some gas left in the tank.
Critics Rating: 7/10