Friday, March 3, 2023

Creed III

You can't win every fight with your fists. Wait, I guess you can. Those conflicting ideas are at the heart of the convoluted third Creed film (and the first without the participation of Sylvester Stallone) which sets the stage for a serious drama about life after boxing, throws in some bat-shit crazy plot to manufacture a big fight centered around Adonis Creed's (Michael B. Jordan, who also directs) childhood angst, and then becomes a straightforward Rocky-style boxing movie complete with extended montage and a laughably over-hyped fight to close things out.

None of these pieces fit together all that well. Nor does the film sell the idea of Creed as anything other than a runaway favorite despite dialogue used to talk up a fighter with a single win against the former heavyweight champion of the world. By the final quarter of the movie Creed III has made the cardinal sin of having us not care who is standing when the final bell is rung. The only cheering you'll do in the final act is when those credits finally, mercifully, start to roll.

The latest sequel takes place a few years after the events of Creed II with Adonis retired and moved on to the next stage of his life as a promoter. That shiny new life is threatened by the return of a childhood friend released from prison after 18 years and looking for his shot at the boxing title and guiling his friend into giving it to him. How the movie meanders to the inevitable battle between old friends turned enemies is a narrative mess leading to an unsatisfactory ending as Creed III devolves from a mediocre film to a bad one before your eyes. And that's sad, as before things start to go off the rails there's plenty of promising moments.

The life of Adonis, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) dominates the first half of the film which sees very little boxing. The film also brings back Phylicia Rashad to provide a Mickey-ish health scare. There's plenty to dive into here, also including the career changes of both Bianca and Adonis well before Dame (Jonathan Majors) walks back into his life. And that too, if handled with more care, could too have born some interesting fruit. For the second time in less than a month, Majors has to play and underwhelming villain in a badly-written film. As in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, it's the material who fails him rather than the other way around.

Adonis' guilt over a ghost from the past stirring up old emotions also has its share of promise (even if eventually leads only to both melodrama and ridiculous plot twists). There's something in both these plot threads which could have been built into a solid drama, especially as the first three-fourths of the film has little or no interest in making a sports movie until it turns so quickly with Rocky III and Rocky V level silliness it will give you whiplash. It doesn't help that Jordan attempts to go avant garde with the one real boxing match of the film, blending it into something between a dream sequences and psychotherapy. What's clear, well before the final bell rings, no matter whose hand is raised in victory it's the audience who loses.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Creed III
  • IMDb: link

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