Just like his mentor, Apollo Creed isn’t quite ready to hang up the boxing gloves.
In the third installment in the “Rocky”-adjacent franchise, Apollo is retired and enjoying the life of a champ. He has a great family, a beautiful house and a gym in which to train another generation of fighters.
And then? An old friend turns up and challenges him. For Michael B. Jordan’s Creed, it’s an offer he can’t refuse.
While “Creed III” has that nagging feeling of unfinished business, it also doesn’t have the skills of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. Rocky, in fact, isn’t even a fond memory in this outing. If you hadn’t seen the first two films you wouldn’t be able to make the connection.
Instead, Creed broods, trains and flashes back to a time before he came back into his birth family’s life. Here, a friend who stood up for him when he was just a troubled youth is back. Played by Jonathan Majors, Damian Anderson is the most interesting character in the film. He has been in prison for a number of years and wants a taste of the good life. So he calls out his friend and, as in all those Rocky sequels, prompts the champ to prove he’s still the best.
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Directed by Jordan, “Creed III” has glimpses of its smart past. But this is very much a formulaic film that doesn’t weigh the consequences of another life in the ring.
Donny (as he's known to family and friends) is now a devoted dad who dotes on his mother and appears to have several lucrative endorsement deals. (We know because he drives by a big Ralph Lauren billboard that features the model-ready Creed.)
When action moves to the ring, there are all the cinematic techniques – the slow motion punches, the bloody cuts and the floor-hugging moments of tension. But “Creed III” doesn’t come close to its predecessors when the big fight takes place. The action seems familiar.
Jordan, too, doesn’t get to grow much in this outing. He’s just the conduit to give Majors a great showcase.
When Damian talks about his past and what fuels his anger, we buy in and want to see him get a piece of the good life Creed enjoys. Pitting them against each other is a great idea that could have been played out in a much better way.
When we see who wins the big heavyweight championship, we know this franchise isn’t over.
Rocky, after all, filled six films and got a second wind with the original “Creed.” Now, a new book has begun and Majors is just the actor to bring it to life.