Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Creed III

Title: Creed III

Describe This Movie In One Rambo: First Blood Part II Quote:
JOHN RAMBO: Nothing is over! Nothing!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Boxer comes out of retirement to fight demons, and also this other dude.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Mai Tais out of 5.
Tagline: "You can't run from your past."

Better Tagline: "But you can punch it in the face."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis:  Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is going out on top. He's retiring after a successful heavyweight title defense and settling in with music producer wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (a scene-swiping Mila Davis-Kent). But before you can say, "I hope nothing comes along to upset this happy tableau," Damian "Dame" Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a man who played a formative role in Creed's youth, shows up looking for a shot at the title.
"Critical" Analysis: Boxing movies are an odd relic, befitting the outdated concept of the sport itself. Watching two people pound each other into meat may still draw millions to PPV, but the days of the casual observer being conversant with who the top fighters are at any given moment are over.

Don't believe me? As any random person who the reigning heavyweight champion is. First, you'll have to specify which sanctioning body, because there are four of them that don't always agree on this point. Go down the classes, and you get to super middleweight before you find a unifying fighter: Canelo Álvarez.

Okay, never mind; plenty of people have heard of him. And he makes a cameo in Creed III!

Creed III is the ninth movie in the Balboa Cinematic Universe, albeit the first without Sylvester Stallone's pugilistic patriarch. It's also star Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut, and he's clearly trying to move everything past the point of relying on Rocky's presence to tie the franchise together.

Which might work, except he seems unwilling to stray from patterns we've grown so familiar with. Creed III owes its existence to Rocky III, and the two share DNA in the same way Creed II and Rocky IV did, wherein our hero is goaded out of his soft life by a hungry up-and-comer who brutalizes his friend, causing him to turn to a former rival for help.

The differences lie in the personal ties between Creed and Dame, and Jordan's apparent unwillingness to have his character suffer humiliation (he gets sucker punched at a party, but that's it). Jordan also telegraphs the film's big beats a mile away, and the script — by King Richard scribe Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler (brother of Creed and Black Panther director Ryan) — is overflowing with sports drama cliches.

One example, Creed is told early on to "Be happy with what you've got." And it's pretty good advice, given how he's recently retired, relatively healthy, and has plenty of money and a loving family. Yet he still allows a handful of playground taunts to bring him back to the ring.

This, like Quantumania before it, is a waste of Majors's talents, who nevertheless makes "Dame" a much better villain than his analog, Clubber Lang. Lang was a human battering ram utterly lacking in depth. Damian is a better, more nuanced villain. He's also more dangerous, thanks to his desperation and feelings of betrayal. And did we mention he also fights dirty as hell?
click to enlarge
"What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in an...urban setting like this?"
Here's a thought: wouldn't a better twist (or any twist, really) have found Creed dismissing his antagonist and living the good life while giving his former friend the spotlight? In Rocky III, Rocky returns to the ring so as not to end his career in a humiliating defeat, but Adonis Creed won his title defense. He has literally nothing to gain by squaring off with Dame, even if he feels guilty about the past.

Especially since it turns out Dame has been manipulating events from the start.

We can't have something so pastoral, of course, because then we wouldn't get treated to the trademarks of a Rocky/Creed franchise final bout: punches that sound like doors slamming, an alarming lack of fighting technique, and both fighters going for decapitations on practically every swing. The climactic match goes almost 12 rounds and has no business doing so.

The fights are what puts those Balb-utts in the seats, and Jordan makes some interesting stylistic choices that almost forgive the flat cinematography. He stages a fight well, and Majors and the rest of the cast don't disappoint (between Wood Harris in this and Sonja Sohn in Will Trent, I suppose I have to get used to my faves from The Wire growing old), but it's not enough. The soundtrack is pretty fire, as the kids say, though I kept waiting for a slow and low version of "Eye of the Tiger" that never materialized.

Creed III is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar