Friday, February 24, 2023

Creed III - Movie Review

The Movie: Creed III

The Director: Michael B. Jordan

The Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Mila Davis-Kent, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad

The Story: Adonis has been thriving in both his career and family life, but when a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces, the face-off is more than just a fight.

The Review:
Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors are both incredibly talented actors with charisma and star power for days. Jordan has been one of Hollywood's hottest stars ever since his breakout performance in Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station and as Killmonger in Black Panther. Majors has made his mark more recently with standout roles in Lovecraft Country, The Harder They Fall, and as Kang the Conqueror in Marvel's cinematic universe. Putting them together in one movie sets up an inevitable contest both in front of and behind the camera and fans of either or both probably couldnt have ever hoped for a more marquee matchup.

Jordan continues the story of his character Adonis Creed who is the son of Apollo Creed, as made famous by Carl Weathers in the original Rocky movies, and we get to see what his life is like while focusing on famiy after retiring from boxing. Majors is the long forgotten friend, and championship caliber boxer in his own right, who spent a considerable amount of time in prison and is now back to pick up where he left off. The dynamic between the two characters, and the two actors for that matter, is the heart of the story and it's also what keeps the movie from being something truly special.

The two issues I have here are pretty simple and I'm not sure if either of them would have been solveable so the movie as is, which is perfectly fine and entertaining, was clearly meant to be exactly what it is. My first issue is that the entire story felt like bits and pieces of all the other Rocky movies, and even some Karate Kid thrown in, tossed into a script blender and poured out onto the paper or screen or whatever format the writing team used to create the screenplay. Some of it is blatantly derivitive and other moments are more subtle homages but the whole thing struggles to stand on its ownb because of this.

My second issue is not really an issue depending on how you look at it but Jonathan Majors is just too damn good and his career path is on too much fire right now for any movie to contain him and any other actor to try and successfully tand next to him. Yes, even someone the caliber of Michael B. Jordan, or even the brilliant Tessa Thompson who returns as Bianca Creed, seemed to shrink in the shadow of Majors' larger than life, yet somehow extremely relatable, on screen presence. Seriously, every moment he is on screen is just captivating whether he is standing at a table quietly observing the scene around him or doing an insane workout routine during the inevitable training montage sequence.

Jordan attempts to stand toe to toe with Majors both from an acting standpoint and inside the squared circle for the boxing sequences, which are outstanding by the way, but Majors dominates in every a person could. This made me wonder if Jordan, as the director, intentionally pulled back to let Majors shine as the antagonist or if it was just a more natural thing that played out. Either way, it makes Creed's efforts in the climactic duel seem hard to accept after everything that lead up to those final moments.

Speaking of the boxing match itself, you know they come face to face for all the marbles because that's what happens in these movies and Jordan takes some very interesting turns in how he plays out the storytelling aspects of the match and the movie as a whole. His filming techniques are very slick, super glossy, and unlike just about anything we have seen in previous boxing movies. Some credit here has to go to cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau who has also on board for Creed II. The movie as a whole is just beautiful to look at and every frame is so well put together from the set layouts to the lighting and just everything else, it all looks amazing.

I have to mention that there's a really heartwarming side story that plays out between Creed and his daughter Amara, played beautifully and energetically by deaf actress Mila Davis-Kent who makes her feature film debut with this role. The two play so well off of each other and the father/daughter dynamic is a truly touching and necesary part of the overall story. From what I understand, the entire cast learned sign language so they could properly and authentically work with and act on screen with Davis-Kent over the course of the production.

The Verdict:
Creed III raises the stakes and places all bets on its climactic confrontation between two of Hollywood's most dynamic personalities. The story leans a little too heavily on the groundwork laid by previous installments of the Rocky/Creed franchise and ends up just missing a knockout blow but should still have fans leaving satisfied with a cinematic split decision.

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