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Creed III Review

March 5, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
CREED III Image Credit: Eli Ade/MGM
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Creed III Review  


There are a LOT of Rocky movies!

There are at least… nine? Right? Five in the original run. Rocky Balboa. Then the three Creed movies. Am I missing any? I feel like I’m missing one more between Rocky V and the first Creed movie. Maybe I’m confusing them with the Rambo movies they started making again in the 2000’s, too.

Regardless, the third movie in the Creed sub-franchise came out this week. After a mere three years separated Creed (2015) from Creed II (2018), it would be another five years until the series became a trilogy of its own. COVID may well have played into that, but still… that’s eight years after we started this run of flicks.

Creed III sees the titular Adonis “Donnie” Creed fight his retirement bout against Ricky Conlan. Donnie wins, unifying boxing’s many world championships, then settles into his life as a husband to Bianca, father to Amara, and… something else not entirely clarified. I think he’s kind of a promoter of sorts? His gym is training the new champ, Felix Chavez, too. I don’t really know how boxing works, but Donnie is still involved in the business side of things.

A childhood friend of his, Damian “Dame” Alexander is released from prison, and the movie intersplices bits and pieces of their backstory. Dame is slightly older than Donnie, but they became friends in a group home, and Dame was a promising up-and-coming boxer. When they were kids, Dame’s life was forever altered when he pulled a gun in a confrontation with some guys the two of them knew from the group home. He goes to jail for eighteen years, and Donnie never made contact with him or mentioned him again. You know, so the other two movies could happen and we would never have heard of this character.

Donnie is setting up a fight between Chavez and Viktor Drago, but an attack at a party breaks Drago’s hand. In a pinch, Donnie sets up Dame as Chavez’ next challenger. Dame fights dirty during the match and ends up winning the titles by knockout. No longer needing Donnie for anything, Dame begins berating his childhood friend publicly and enjoying his fame.

Along the way Donnie’s mom dies and he goes through some drama with Bianca about the hidden backstory that Creed I and Creed II did not yet know he had. During a phone-in confrontation on ESPN, Donnie challenges Dame, and the fight is on!

The climax comes in an outdoor fight in Dodgers Stadium, and Adonis gets the KO win late in the final round. After the fight, he approaches a defeated Dame, and the two make up.



+ The final act boxing match is always simultaneously my most and least favorite part of the these Creed movies. The least because it reduces all of the excellent character drama of the previous ninety minutes to a punch-up; the most because these fights are so comically over-the-top you can’t help but love them. If boxing actually looked like these movies make it look–never-ending big bomb shots and haymakers, with each character having approximately 9999 hit points–people would still watch boxing.

With this movie, I found the final battle between Creed and Dame was unquestionably the high point of the film. It keeps the bombast of the previous movies’ matches, but also kind of embraces a slightly more realistic approach to boxing. By the twelfth round, both men have been through a lot, but they aren’t mangled messes of blood and bruises. They just look worn out and lightly damaged.

Additionally, Michael B. Jordan as director adds some artistic flourishes to the fight, with rounds three through eleven taking place in an ethereal sequence with no crowd, no background, and imagery from both prison and the group home in the ring with both men. It was a haymaker of a swing for this franchise, and it pretty much landed.

+ As with the previous entries, the acting is on point for all of the core cast. Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, and Mila Davis-Kent (as Amara) all put in a great effort. Jordan himself feels so at home in this role, and you really see ADONIS CREED the character and not just Jordan the actor playing him.

Across the board, this feels like the most lazily written entry into the Creed franchise. Both of the previous two entries made every struggle, every story beat, feel earned. In Creed III, it felt more like things happened… just because. Creed’s mother hid the letters Dame sent her son as a child. It just gives him a reason to yell at her before she dies. And then her death is also pointless! It doesn’t drive him. It doesn’t mean anything to the story. It’s just a sad thing that happens to show that things are getting bad for our protagonist going into the third act.

Additionally, Dame ends up as an almost cartoonish villain. He seems like a guy who made some mistakes and took a rap, but after getting the title match against Chavez, he basically goes gleefully villainous. And we quickly find out he orchestrated the attack on Drago with former inmate friends of his. This is a guy for whom we could have had sympathy, but the plot finds it easier to make him a scumbag… but then also expects us to buy not only that he’s a better man after losing, but also that Donnie would forgive him.

There’s also a mystery with what happened to Donnie and Dame when they were little kids in the group home together, and the movie FEELS like it is building to a very dark and uncomfortable reveal, but it slinks away from doing that, as well.

This next one is on me. And in a movie about boxing–in a franchise about boxing, where the finale of EVERY INSTALLMENT is a big boxing match–of course the third act is… a big boxing match.

But it really felt like this movie was going in a different direction. There is a first act subplot about Amara punching out a classmate, and Donnie and Bianca argue over whether fighting solves problems. The story centers around Donnie not being there for his friend when he should have, and what he needs is to forgive himself and seek forgiveness from his friend.

So when it all came down to Big Boxing Match, I felt… “Oh”. And that was stupid of me, like I said. But it genuinely felt like the arc was building to something deeper, something Adonis couldn’t just jab away. I wanted him to win over Dame outside the ring and embrace him as a brother and correct his course into an honroable champion.

But no. He just punches the goodness into him and closes the film with championship belts.

Didn’t feel earned!

The final score: review Average
The 411
I'm not saying Creed III is a bad movie or anything; it has a lot going for it in terms of production and performances. The fights are just as good, if not better, than we expect, too! But the story of this one did not have any of the emotional impact of the first two. It was plain and paint-by-numbers. Creed I and Creed II were GREAT. This was... good.

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Creed III, Rob Stewart