The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - CREED III | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - CREED III

Adonis Creed faces a figure from his past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael B. Jordan

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad

Creed 3 poster

Along with Planet of the Apes and Top Gun: Maverick, 2015's Creed is a rare example of Hollywood getting it right when it comes to reviving a once successful property. With Sylvester Stallone finally too old to don the gloves, Rocky passed the baton to Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo, Rocky's original opponent. It was a surprise when the franchise delivered a worthwhile sequel in 2018's Creed II, but the third instalment (or ninth if you want to count Rocky/Creed as one long series) is running on fumes and it seems this series may finally be in its dying rounds.

Creed 3 review

The trouble with Adonis as a protagonist is that he completed his arc in the first movie. That was all about Adonis proving himself worthy of his father's name, which he did in an epic final encounter with Scouse brawler Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Creed II didn't really know what to do with Adonis, and it was the storyline featuring his opponent Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) and his father Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) that made the movie gripping. This third movie puts Adonis centre stage yet still can't really figure out a way to make him interesting.

With Adonis such a wet blanket here, it's just as well his opponent gets us on our feet once again. Played by a charismatic Jonathan Majors, Dame Anderson was once a mentor to a young Adonis and a promising boxer in his own right until an incident lead to him being incarcerated for 18 years. Now he's back on the street and has his eyes set on not just a professional boxing career, but a shot at the title. Now retired and in the promotion business, Adonis feels guilty about how life turned out for his old friend and allows him to spar in his gym. That's not enough for Dame however, who manipulates his way into a title bout against the current champion, a young Mexican protégé of Adonis.

Creed 3 review

Of course it's all building up to Adonis being coaxed back into the ring and facing his demons, which have now taken the hulking physical form of Dame. The trouble here is that the movie posits Adonis as an underdog, as this series is wont to do, yet despite having been retired for a couple of years, would he really be at a disadvantage against a man who has spent the past two decades behind bars and who has only had one professional bout? Adonis's ripped form suggests he hasn't spent his retirement eating Cheetos on his couch.

This particular bout also feels like a betrayal of the Rocky franchise's class dynamics. Stallone's Rocky Balboa is one of American cinema's few working class heroes, and its his underclass status that made us root for him. The 1976 movie saw a humble working class man represent his street corner against a flamboyant showman who purported to represent America. The series' low point, the jingoistic Reagan era wankfest Rocky IV missed the point by having Rocky fight for "The West," something that's far less tangible than a street corner. Now in Creed III we're asked to root for a multi-millionaire who lives in the hills above Los Angeles in a duel against a working class man from a street corner of his own. Major does a lot to engender empathy with a Terry Molloy-esque performance, but the film only allows this to a point. Halfway through the film he morphs into a carton villain in the Clubber Lang mould. It's a direct reversal of how the previous film managed to humanise Ivan Drago, the most cartoonish figure of the entire franchise to that point.

Creed 3 review

Jordan's directorial debut is a mixed bag. His inexperience is exposed in the climactic bout, which sees the first time director opt for showy visuals that come off as cheesy, the sort of idea a film student might come up. Jordan and screenwriters Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin fail to translate the character dynamics into the final bout. Watch it out of context and you would have little idea that there was any personal history between the fighters (for an example of how this should be done watch the concluding fight of Gavin O'Connor's MMA family drama Warrior). Jordan's more flamboyant stylings do pay off in one of the series' most exciting training montages, positively Reifenstahl-esque in its unfashionable celebration of athleticism. There's a nice subtle piece of visual storytelling that holds the camera on Adonis as he wishes Dame luck in his first fight, his hesitation suggesting he's only now realising what a mistake he might have made. A cute relationship between Adonis and his hearing impaired daughter (Mila Davis-Kent), who hints at following in his pugilist footsteps, gives the movie most of its moments of heart, but Tessa Thompson's Bianca is largely reduced to a scolding wife cliché.

There's just enough here to keep fans of this long-running series content for two hours, but it's unlikely to become a disc you pull from the Rocky/Creed boxset too often. Stallone sits this one out for a producing role, and his absence is sorely felt. There's one particular moment that feels tailor-made for Adonis to look up his mentor for some fatherly advice, and the occasional nuggets of working class wisdom peppered through the script feel like they long to be delivered by Stallone's distinctive drawl.

Creed III
 is on Prime Video UK now.

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