CREED III: a quick view

Get an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the new movie Creed III, released in 2023. This analysis delves into the film's intricate details and extras, providing more than just a simple review.


The transformation that Creed underwent in the past eight years is worth examining. Unlike franchises such as Star Wars and Jurassic World, which rely heavily on a familiar formula, Creed recognized that the essence of Rocky lies not in any boxing film formula but in the strength of its characters. Moving away from the working-class Italian-American culture of Philadelphia to the world of black culture and show business in Los Angeles was not a complete departure, but rather a seamless transition guided by an authentic and distinct characterization.

The upcoming film Creed III (2023) will break with tradition by not featuring Sylvester Stallone on screen and also omitting Dolph Lundgren’s character. Although Carl Weathers’ character Apollo is referenced in the film, Michael B. Jordan takes on a new role as director and tells a story that stands on its own, separate from the Rocky franchise. This new direction is a testament to the established mythology of the Creed series, with a focus on moving forward without relying on nostalgia or the original mold.

The film remains grounded in its commitment to characterization. Adonis’ affluent background is now even more evident, with Hollywood Hills as the backdrop and Adonis often seen with a glass of French cognac, which is part of the film’s merchandising. While the portrayal of Adonis as a sports mogul flirts with caricature, it is crucial to establish his privilege and highlight the antagonism with the ex-convict Dame, played by Jonathan Majors.

The sport of boxing is often dominated by black American athletes, yet few films have explored this reality directly. In the Rocky franchise, which has traditionally been centered around white pride, this is a new and significant development. In Creed III, the entire plot hinges on the charged dynamic between Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis and Jonathan Majors’ Dame, and the film’s success rests on how effectively it can convey this conflict. Fortunately, the actors have a strong grasp of their characters and their respective privileges, so even small gestures like Adonis’ smile or Dame’s avoidance help to underscore the social and economic divide that has driven a wedge between these childhood friends.

Creed III’s most compelling dramatic moments occur outside the boxing ring, in the intimate face-to-face interactions that draw from the characters’ deep-seated motivations. The trilogy’s films are adept at evoking subtle emotional reactions from the audience, as much of the action unfolds subtly on screen. For instance, scenes featuring Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson communicating through sign language, or conversations between Adonis and Dame in a tense cafeteria, leave much unsaid, requiring viewers to fill in the gaps and connect the dots themselves.

As a director, Jordan understands the importance of these moments, but unfortunately, the script falls short when the plot needs to progress. The turn from Dame to Hateful Opponent happens abruptly, disrupting the carefully stacked characterizations. Majors carries his character on his shoulders, giving Dame stature more due to the actor’s enviable stage presence than the text he is given. Regardless, all will be resolved in the ring.

Creed III’s boxing scenes are heavily influenced by anime (of which Jordan is a fan, evidenced by the Naruto poster in Adonis’ bedroom), and their virtuosity overshadows the subtlety of the dramatic construction. The film is grounded in a familiar reality of Los Angeles, but the climax occurs in a hyperrealistic funky world with a CGI background and slow-motion shots.

Jordan’s incorporation of anime influences and the use of computer graphics backgrounds in boxing scenes in Creed III can be seen as a justification for poetic license and a fresh take on the sports film genre. It has been almost 15 years since the innovative release of Speed Racer in 2008, and it is disheartening that Hollywood has not fully capitalized on the potential of visual arts and impressionism that CGI backgrounds can offer in storytelling for its blockbusters. As a first-time director and an aesthete, Jordan deserves recognition for his efforts, despite the limitations of the screenplay. In the end, Jordan may have earned a points victory.

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