Heart pounding! Michael B. Jordan’s CREED III is an excellent, gripping motion picture! Quite possibly the best in the now-trilogy. Moreover, it is the first Best Picture contender in 2023. Reminds us that movies that focus on simple plots with complex characters are often times make for the best stories. The tertiary installment in the Creed series is a revenge story on the backdrop of the power the past can have over us if we fail to face it in the ring. This moving story is certain to stir up the feels! Ryan and Keenan Coogler’s story paired with Jordan’s directing and the iconic Sylvester Stallone’s producing combine to craft a story that is both visually and emotionally driven. Add in the A-list cast, and Creed III becomes one film that you do not want to miss seeing on the big screen, and preferably in a premium format. Audiences will feel as though they are in both the boxing ring that we can see and the psychological fighting ring that we must feel. Like with the previous Creed (and even Rocky movies), it’s not about the boxing, it’s not about the athletics, it’s about the characters; however, the setting and backdrop of a boxing match and physical endurance training is the conduit through which the story unfolds. While some critics have negatively reacted to the simple plot, need I remind my contemporaries that conventional storytelling is never to be undervalued. For it is when the plot is accessible that the complexities of character dynamics and thoughtful subplots work in tandem to support excellence in storytelling.
Still dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed is thriving in his career and family life. When Damian, a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces after serving time in prison, he’s eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian — a fighter who has nothing to lose.
Five years removed from Creed II, I was wondering if this next installment would be on par with the previous two outstanding movies, and suffice it to say, it most definitely is. In fact, I may even go onto say that this is my favorite of the series. And why is that? It’s the characters. Yes, most of the characters are ones with which we are already familiar, but the addition of an old, estranged friend of Adonis’ is the injection of emotional and physiological complexities that this film needed to force our hero of Adonis Creed to continue to grow as a person, a father, and as a professional. His Journey parallels Damian’s (Dame) journey as they are both fighting the demons of their respective pasts. Each of them express or deal with their pasts in their own ways, yielding vastly different results. And it is the divergent path both these fighters took after a fateful encounter one night that set Adonis on the path to forget the past and Dame on a self-destructive past that would lead him to seeking revenge on the man he claims lived his life.
While the outside-action story is expressed through a boxing match and simple revenge plot, the inside-emotional story concerns itself with a greater degree of introspection as expressed through the respective emotional journeys and fights with the past. Suffice it to say, Adonis and Dane are two sides of the same coin. Both characters react to the events of the past divergently. Wherein the audience will relate most is the idea of battling the past to move on, and failing to confront the past, no matter how painful, can lead to being held prisoner of past events that fester as time goes on.
Each of us has a past that we either tried to escape or allow to define us; either way, that gives the past immense power over our lives and decisions, even affecting those around us. The action plot of the boxing match is a manifestation or personification, if you will, of the battle raging inside both Adonis and Dame. Adonis expressed this influence of the past through a facade of overcoming and resillence, while Dame expressed this influence though unforgiveness (which is like you drinking poison hoping it’ll harm the other person) and resentment. Through the catharsis of the boxing match, Adonis and Dame confront the past with both links and separates the estranged friends.
Creed III is exciting and well-paced. Audiences will be on the edge of their seats as the story unfolds. Yes, there are moments of predicability, as this is a type of story that has been told before, but don’t allow that to dissuade you from making your way to the movie theatre to catch this future best picture contender. Are aspects of this story cliche (or paint by numbers), yes; however, as Patrick DeWitt reminds us in The French Exit through the timeless Michelle Pfeiffer, never forget that a cliche is “a story so fine and thrilling that it’s grown old in its hopeful retelling.” And Creed III is certainly thrilling!
Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida and Indie Film Critics of America. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.