“Damian’s fighting the world, and he’s trying to hurt people.”
“Creed 3” is battling its way into movie theaters this week. With it comes an epic showdown between Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and his new nemesis of sorts, Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors). It is a stark departure from the films that Sylvester Stallone built through the “Rocky” franchise, but it stands on its own two feet in a healthy way that adds to the “Creed” series of late.
Michael B. Jordan wears many hats in unveiling “Creed 3” to global audiences as the film’s director, co-writer, producer, and star. In his third bout with the franchise, this sequel is uniquely Jordan’s as the character of Rocky is nowhere to be found. Stallone’s eponymous alter ego barely gets a mention during the two-hour film, which sets the tone for Jordan to take center stage and prove how valuable of a commodity Adonis Creed can be.
Adonis “Donnie” Creed is newly retired and living the high life with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their young daughter. Creed has bowed out of boxing after holding the title of undisputed heavyweight champion, exiting on top, and operating his own gym to mentor up-and-coming boxing champions. Bianca’s hearing loss has made it difficult for her to continue her singing career, and she parlays her success into songwriting for other musicians. Like Bianca, Donnie’s daughter is hard of hearing, and many of the scenes in their sprawling Los Angeles mansion depict a quiet life for the young family.
The power couple is at a crossroads where both have achieved all the goals they set out to accomplish at a young age. Donnie’s mother, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), is not getting any younger, and her health is deteriorating. But, secrets from Donnie’s and Mary Anne’s past soon arrive in the present day in the form of Damian Anderson, who bursts into their lives unexpectedly after an 18-year stint in prison. Damian has a motive for reappearing, though, and it might propel Donnie out of retirement.
Damian and Donnie were like brothers growing up on the mean streets of Los Angeles. As the older of the two, Damian had a promising boxing career before an altercation outside of a convenience store caused him to get arrested and imprisoned. Donnie, racked with guilt about succeeding in boxing while Damian rotted in prison, agrees to allow his old buddy to train at his gym. However, Damian is a rough fighter who will stop at nothing to show how much he believes he’s earned the right to a title shot.
“Creed 3” boasts a crowd pleaser with fantastic performances from its talented ensemble cast, elevated by Jonathan Majors’ continuous takeover of Hollywood in blockbuster movies almost tailor-made for his brand of methodical abrasiveness. His take on Damian is ferocious inside the ring but delicate in private moments opposite Jordan. For the first sports movie filmed in IMAX, Jordan’s direction compliments that spectacle but leaves much to be desired by the film’s end. Many boxing scenes scream style over substance, and some excuses for why Damian finds himself in the ring sometimes seem forced.
The movie is trying hard to be very Los Angeles-focused, with memorable moments at famous venues like Dodger Stadium and visual cues in flashback scenes where Damian is sporting Dodgers gear. But like the City of Angels, “Creed 3” is very superficial in its delivery. Clearly not filmed entirely in L.A. and departing from the themes that made “Rocky” such an underdog concept, the film suffers from a lack of cohesion in its characters. The tension of the final sequence is meant to evoke emotion and a sense of legacy, leaning hard on Donnie Creed and barely mentioning Rocky Balboa. Yes, this is Creed’s film series, and he is the main character, but without Rocky, it feels like something is missing.
However over the top and unrealistic as “Creed 3” is, it’s far from being the worst sports movie in memory and probably the second best of the “Creed” film series. Jordan has a promising career in directing and producing, especially when his frequent collaborator Ryan Coogler is involved.
Everyone may have an underdog story, but “Creed 3” reminds its audience that while we may be through with the past, the past is not through with us.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟🎟