Creed III Review: Rocky Fatigue

Creed III is here to continue the Rocky spinoff / sequel series after the last two entries proved that dramatic sports boxing movies still have their place in modern cinema. With this series now in its third outing, have Michael B. Jordan and co. managed to keep things fresh or has time taken its toll on this once fresh idea?

It’s the latter. We kind of gave that away in the headline, but it’s the latter.

So for background, which you can also see in the trailers on this page, Adonis Creed is on top of the world after the previous movies until an old friend in the form of Dame Anderson (Jonathan Majors) returns from almost two decades in jail. Having watched his friend live the life he always wanted to as a major boxing star, Anderson comes after Creed.

It’s a simple premise as with most sports movies, but we get a little extra here with Creed now a family man, rich beyond belief and retired with nothing more to prove in the ring, so why come back to fight Anderson?

While we won’t be spoiling any of that the first third of the movie does great in getting audiences invested and, for us at least, it may be the strongest part of the whole experience. This is bizarre as all the real fighting and conflict happens in the second two thirds.

Why is this? Poor payoff, mostly. Creed III goes through great lengths to set up several plotlines and character progression moments that simply don’t come to fruition.

Again explaining how and why would be spoiling the plot but let’s look at one specific one that is shown in the trailers: Creed’s daughter. Amara Creed, played by young actress Mila Davis-Kent, puts in a surprisingly great performance through sign language. We see Creed teaching her boxing in these trailers, and the movie itself sets up a plotline about Amara struggling in school, wanting to fight and not exactly fitting in at a school with other deaf children.

This plotline has several scenes, is never revisited after the halfway mark in the movie, Davis-Kent has very little to do and the credits roll with no resolution.

Not dedicating enough time in the run of a movie to smaller characters is fine, but why waste the audience’s time by setting up supposed plots?

The worst example is the Anderson character and the waste of Majors as a whole. His plotline too goes nowhere. We see in the trailer, and through various parts of the movie, that Anderson wants Creed’s life, and that he’s “coming for everything” but he just… doesn’t.

Creed III in all respects feels like it’s missing 30 odd minutes of movie. The story and overall enjoyment of the entire experience has been butchered either in the script or the edit. We’re not entirely sure which but we’re leaning towards the edit, especially as the trailers feature several scenes that aren’t in the final movie.

Even if the edit isn’t the problem, the writing simply isn’t strong enough. Our biggest bugbear is Creed himself, who is in maybe eighty or ninety percent of the scenes.

This leaves so little time for the supporting cast to shine and, again, Majors lacks time in the spotlight.

Rocky and Creed and most sports dramas are almost all based on the crowd rooting for the underdog. That isn’t us talking as several characters in Creed III continually remind the audience that “people love an underdog”.

But Creed, in this movie, is so far above the underdog that it becomes comedy. The first shot of Creed in the modern day is of him sleeping in an LA Mansion so large that it likely has its own time zone, complete with glass floors, helper staff and a home studio for Creed’s musician wife played by Tessa Thompson, another actor who does little in the overall story.

When your main character is named after a Greek god, has more money than god, is built like a superhero and is shown to be a celebrity and beloved sports icon, how can the audience relate to them or care about their relatively small trials and tribulations?

At one point Creed is going through a minor crisis and sees a building-sized advert of himself modelling a Ralph Lauren suit, while driving through LA in a huge Rolls-Royce. For some reason seeing himself in this advert, from the comfort of his luxury British car, causes Creed to cringe and worsen his mood.

Excuse us? Oh sorry Mr. Creed, it must be so difficult to have been paid obscene amounts of money to model expensive clothes in an ad campaign, we were too busy over here fretting about rent this month. As Jordan struggles to act sad in this scene, all we can think about is Woody Harrelson in Zombieland, drying his tears with hundred Dollar notes.

The movie even has the gall to say that Creed is the underdog in a fight near the end of the movie, because he is a bit out of practice, but we spend several previous scenes watching him train in a gym that is located in a private airport hanger. Nothing says underdog like a multi-millionaire paying several personal trainers to get him fit in a private aircraft hanger.

At this point some may argue that everything we’ve discussed so far doesn’t really matter if the actual fights are good, and to those people we ask if they understand basic storytelling, because maybe they don’t, and maybe the filmmakers behind this project don’t either.

Are the fights in Creed III good? Yeah some of them are. There’s a fantastic moment in the first third of the movie that made us a bit physically ill, but was impactful as a massive showing of human spirit over physical pain, which is the heart and soul of this kind of movie, but we never see anything like that again.

Prior of to the release of this film Creed III made news because these fight scenes were apparently inspired by anime, something Jordan is a well known fan of. At this point it’s worth mentioning that Jordan is not only the star of this film, but also its director. This rings a bit hollow to us as all the great, memorable fights in decades of anime are great and memorable not only because of flashiness and choreography, but because of the story behind the fights and the, wait for it, underdog struggle of the protagonist to overcome insurmountable odds.

The music and score of this movie is fine but forgettable, and all the other characters not mentioned so far have so little time on screen that they may as well have not been in the movie at all.

Creed III is an okay movie, it really is, and we can see a not insignificant amount of people really enjoying what it has to offer. There’s just a fatal misunderstanding of the core mechanics of what makes this kind of movie work, and we left the theatre empty and wanting.

Oh and the training montage in this one is a complete dud.

As with Rocky before it, the Creed series feels like it has completely run out of steam and has nothing to offer moviegoers. While the previous two movies had actual underdog stories to rely on, on top of the novelty of the spinoff, Creed III has no such luxuries on top of a lousy script and a bad edit.

Final Score: 5 out of 10.


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