Updated: Mar 21
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” - Helen Keller
Few figures in cinematic history have crossed the line from fictional character to viable, real life hero quite like Rocky. He has his very own life-size statue just outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And to be clear, it’s a statue of Rocky, not Sylvester Stallone. Splitting hairs? Maybe. But if the character was never created there would be no statue anywhere. In 1976 the unlikeliest of heroes was born. From the time of the original Star Wars to the era of bitchy, whiny fanboys, the character and arguably more importantly, the spirit of Rocky has endured. It’s said that you’re truly a success when your accomplishments outlive you. While Sly is still very much with us, Rocky it would seem has heard his final bell. In his place we have the thriving, equally engaging legacy of Creed.
As with each of the Rocky stories, boxing prodigy Creed is forced to face the ghosts of his past and the pasts of his closest circle. In the introduction of Adonis Creed we see his desire to make a name for himself outside of the name that has overshadowed his every move from the moment he discovered who his father was. As with many things in life, Adonis learns from those around him. Through the wisdom of Rocky and the influence of his new found love, Bianca, Adonis realizes the tunnel vision he’s been looking through and that the name of Creed is anything but a curse to be shunned. Once he embraces the history of his name he must combat the demons of his mentor, Rocky, by facing the very name that destroyed the Creed legacy, Drago. This is the last we saw of Adonis, Bianca and the larger-than-life challengers that only wish for the demise of Creed.
In the third chapter of Creed’s story, Adonis is faced with his most personal challenge yet. In the early days of his misspent youth, Adonis was close with one boy more than any other. Damian Anderson had a bright future before one fateful night outside of a convenient store. Essentially abandoned by Adonis, Damian was left behind bars for nearly two decades as he watched Adonis live out his dreams of becoming a world champion boxer. After the retirement of Adonis, Damian suddenly appears to obtain what he believes is rightfully his. Nothing less than the title will suffice and there is no limit Damian will not reach for to make that a reality. Even if that means he gains the opportunity through betrayal and manipulation.
As the face of boxing changes, Adonis must either choose to live with the outcome of Damian at the top of which he earned by less than honest means or he must put his body and mind to the test one last time and put Damian and all of his grievances to rest once and for all. As each moment passes bringing these once considered brothers closer to the clash of their lives, especially Adonis, they must face the idea that just maybe their blame isn’t so one directional as they have been telling themselves all these years. Time, and our memory of it are often merely skewed versions of the truth. Even if we’re not lying, the truth isn’t necessarily revealed.
As this third installment is released and potential for future stories to be told, so far, the first of its namesake, Creed, is unquestionably still the best. I would argue however that the levels of quality between each story is negligible at most. I appreciate the cinematography more in the first than the parts two and three. Beyond this though what really makes these stories worthwhile are the characters and their relationships. In the first, watching Adonis earn the trust of Rocky and slowly become family is endearing. In part 2 we see the lengths that family will go for one another. As Adonis fights the demons of Rocky and his own father, Apollo, he begins the steps of making a family and ultimately a legacy of his own. And now in part 3 we see Adonis face someone who once called themselves family. As their fight is very physical, his internal struggle is equally as taxing. Through all of Adonis’ battles both in and out of the ring, he turns to friends and family to navigate himself to a hopeful outcome of a fist raised in the air in triumph. This is what makes the Rocky and now Creed stories worthy of being told.
Ryan Coogler directed the first and his skills behind the camera are obvious. With part 2, Steven Caple Jr. steered the ship and continued the style choices made by Coogler in part 1. Now with Creed III Jordan is behind the camera for his directorial debut. If I can say anything about his efforts it is the obvious confidence he possesses. Learning from some of the best modern day filmmakers, Jordan has clearly taken what he has learned over the years and puts it into practice. What’s even more commendable are the moments that stick out from the previous Creed films. His style in some of the fight scenes really shine making those moments feel all the more unique and special.
Where part 3 falters is in the moments never realized. So much of this particular chapter feels commonplace. It contains moments that are wonderfully crafted only to lead into moments we’ve seen in ten other boxing movies. Or just sports movies in general. Instead of continuing in a new, unique direction it turns to the sports cliche checklist. So much of these stories require certain elements regardless of being overused or not. The training montage, the inevitable defeat before the triumphant rise and resurgence is all there. It’s in every Rocky movie, in every Creed movie and countless other sports stories. They’re tropes because as much as we’ve seen these moments, they are always necessary to show character development in a contained amount of time. This all said I have to admit, when asked what changes should they have made I come up empty. With the first Creed it was Rocky and Adonis creating the foundation of this new chapter in the Creed legacy. With part 2 it was ensuring the new chapter will endure the mistakes of a checkered past. Perhaps that’s why after part 2 I thought it should have ended there. While I’m glad part 3 is here, I realize it didn’t have a lot of options to tread new territory.
Outside of the relationship of Adonis and Damian I don’t find part 3 as engaging as its predecessors. But as I said before with parts 1 and 2, the differences in quality between each story, part 3 included, is minimal. I think the best thing I can say about each new story in the name of Creed is that each has left me wondering what might be next. While I didn’t think it was necessary to go on after part 2, but knowing part 3 was inevitable (because it’s Hollyweird), I accepted its impending release and remained hopeful. I’m happy that if anything, Creed III is worthy of the name.
Rated PG-13 For: intense sports action/violence and some strong language
Runtime: 117 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Sport
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad
Directed By: Michael B. Jordan
Out of 10
Story: 8/ Acting: 8.5/ Directing: 7.5/ Visuals: 7
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below: