Michael B Jordan, everybody’s favourite Killmonger (Black Panther), stars in and directs what seems likely to be the final chapter in a Creed trilogy (at least, the final of the franchise to centre on Adonis, more on that later). For a directorial debut, it’s a good one!
From a narrative and character development perspective, much like Creed II, part III in the Adonis Creed story doesn’t necessarily need to exist. But that’s not to say it isn’t a good movie. It may possibly be the best entry in the series. Please be warned, this review contains a couple of spoilers, so skip to the last paragraph if that is your way.
With a short bridging prologue, the film picks up with Adonis enjoying a few years of retirement. Ending his career in the ring at the top of his game, life as gym manager and fight promoter is successful and uneventful. Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) returns as Adonis’ wife Bianca, who much like Adonis, has retired from performing on stage and moved on to record production. Together they’re raising daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) who has very much conquered life as a deaf mute child and is dealing with the next great challenge, her developing emotions, attitude and the school yard.
Enter Damian (Jonathon Majors), a figure from Adonis’ broken childhood who’s just got off the bus from prison (it’s a cliché, but it works). Dame has just one mission, to take it all, and makes it clear from the get go that he’s not here to fuck spiders. Whether Dame intended to do it the friendly way or take the path of nemesis to Adonis is up for interpretation. Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) offers a genuinely sinister performance that hits all the right beats leading everyone, including Adonis, to beware his presence. Dame and Adonis have a history that breeds resentment in themselves, and for each other.
It is around the fifty minute mark where Creed III becomes slightly unstuck, after Dame steals the title belts (yes, plural) by demolishing Adonis’ heavyweight champ Felix, motivation for Adonis to battle Dame in the ring himself doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, Damian is doing all he can to provoke and publicly trash Adonis, but Adonis is retired. His reputation is intact, his future is solid, Adonis has the family, the house, the gym… he has it all. For all Dame’s threats, what else could Dame really take? The real answer is, not much. However, it wouldn’t be a Creed movie, without that final 12 round climax so with a few sticks and stones sent his way, Adonis challenges Dame to save face. This may be a factor in why Stallone passed on appearing in this entry but to be fair, while viewing this film, he is barely missed.
Despite that, the film successfully mirrors Rocky III in that a hungry contender appears from the street to challenge the champion past their prime. Both films highlight the death of a nurturing character, responsible for guiding the central character on their journey to this moment. Nurturing characters who in their hubris, made a choice that now haunts the champion.
Reading between the lines, this film also sets up for the future of the franchise. While this may likely be the last Adonis Creed story, (he is retired, his body is broken, he is done), Amara Creed is standing hungry and ready to prove herself. Imagining a future with Adonis and Damian backing her corner, a change of gender and social backdrop while carrying the Creed name forward is exactly what this franchise needs.
Apart from a few questionable plot points, Creed III is the tightest and most exciting entry in the series. Running approximately one hour and forty five odd minutes of screen time excluding credits, there’s not really any sub-plot to track and leave dangling, which is fresh in today’s trend of two and a half hour plus butt-numbers. The heart of the film is solid and weighs in at an easy 8/10.
If we don’t see an Amara Creed film in the next five years – a coming of age story where she battles her parents expectations, society’s take on her disability in boxing while coming up against her own personal nemesis – well, it’ll be a missed opportunity and a damn shame.