Well, I did not watch all those Rocky and Creed movies for nothing, you know? By the way, as a matter of procedure, if you read that last statement and did not know what it pertains to, then you are likely not subscribed to The Legionnaire. If this is the case, then you missed what I have to say about the eight films that precede this one. Yes, eight. You see, I am behind on posting my reviews to my social media accounts. A good friend of mine gave this tip as a way to make yourself look busy and important. I can vouch for the busy part, anyway. If I were more important, you would be subscribed! And if you are subscribed, thanks! None of this has a lot to do with Creed III, but it is good to remind you all sometimes one of the things I hope from you.
Before Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becomes the retired heavyweight champion boxer of the world, he is a fifteen-year-old kid (Thaddeus J. Mixon) going by Donnie Johnson. He has to sneak out of his adoptive mother, Mary Anne Creed’s (Phylicia Rashad), house in order to hang out with his best friend, Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Dame is an eighteen-year-old, up-and-coming boxer (Spence Moore II), and they know each other from serving time together in a group home. Donnie goes with Dame to his next match, carrying the bag for him containing his gloves. There is also a lot of money in it, and a gun, but we will get to that in a moment. After Dame’s victory, they stop at a convenience store. As Donnie goes in to get refreshments, he spots somebody coming out that he recognizes. This back story is revealed in bits and pieces later, but I am going to give the whole thing now for brevity’s sake. This person Donnie knows is Leon (Aaron Alexander). Leon used to beat Dame and Donnie when they were incarcerated, so Donnie begins to punch Leon. Leon’s friends tear Donnie off and are about to return the favor when Dame shows up with the gun in his hand. At almost the same moment, police cars roll up. Donnie runs and Dame ends up spending the next eighteen years in prison. We now jump ahead fifteen years and upon defeating “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew), Adonis is now the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He then promptly retires to spend more time with his family. I cannot say that I blame him. Who wants to get repeatedly punched in the face when you have a beautiful wife like Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and an irresistibly cute daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent)? He still keeps an interest in boxing, though, but as a promoter and owner of the gym that made his father, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers, not pictured), into the fighter he became. Adonis is successful in this venture, too, having brought up the new champion, Felix Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.). Things are going well until his past catches up to him. Standing outside the gym one day is the newly released Dame. Getting over the initial shock, and guilt, Adonis brings Dame back into his life. Dame is invited to dinner at Adonis’ house, to a record release party for a musician that Bianca is producing, and to train at Adonis’ gym. Through it all, there is one thing on Dame’s mind: a shot at the title. Adonis wants to help, but he also knows that a chance to become the champion typically takes a number of years of coming up through the ranks. Dame is not a professional boxer, not to mentioned being locked up for two decades. Yet, at that same soiree, the current challenger to Chavez, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), has his arm and hands broken. Not wanting to postpone the match, Adonis decides to give Dame what he wants. With Adonis and his family ringside to watch the bout, Dame proceeds to fight dirty in a number of ways that surprise Adonis. Though points are deducted from Dame, he nonetheless succeeds in delivering a knockout blow to Chavez that puts the former champ in the hospital. After the fight, Mary Anne shows Adonis the letters Dame wrote, but they had been withheld from him by her to protect her son. Amongst those letters, though, is a picture of Dame with the same person that had assaulted Viktor. In other words, this had all been a set up. Adonis goes to confront Dame, and finds a celebratory new champ claiming that he does not need Adonis anymore. It is evident that this is payback for letting Dame rot in a jail cell for eighteen years without calling or returning any of his letters. Things get even worse for Adonis when shortly thereafter, Mary Anne succumbs to health problems that had been brought on by recent strokes. As per usual with these movies, it takes a word of encouragement from the spouse to get his confidence back. What they agree on is that he needs to fight Dame. Cue the obligatory training montage, this one featuring both boxers doing crazy bouts of strength to prepare for the upcoming bout. I will give this one credit, though, for doing something not done in the others. Given the intensely personal nature of the match, instead of the usual march of round-after-round, there is a sort of dream sequence where the rest of the arena disappears and it is just the two of them in the ring. It is a little strange, but different, anyway. Since it is Adonis’ name on the title, it is fair to guess that he wins. After the crowd goes wild, he goes into Dame’s locker room and they make amends. We close with the Creed family in the ring, eventually going home.
Creed III is an acceptable movie. It is perhaps a few ticks above average. It was a fair experience. I could go on with the clichés. I think my opinion is skewed because I had so recently watched all the Rocky and Creed films that come before Creed III. With a nine movie franchise, you have to think for a moment to differentiate between them, and still they tend to blend together. This is particularly true when it comes to the training montages. You could pluck one out of one installment and drop it into another and you will have changed little about its plot. The sameness goes beyond content. Sylvester Stallone had a large role in the Rocky franchise, writing the screenplay for all six Rocky installments and directing four of them. This may not have been purposeful, but Michael B. Jordan follows this tradition with Creed III by directing it. Maybe this is why Stallone is not in it? Anyway, food for thought.
In Creed III, there is a theme of guilt and responsibility. In a clichéd but real sense, these are ideas familiar to us Catholics. The stereotype comes in when people think of us as letting them rule our lives. This is the trap that Adonis falls into with Dame and Tessa. With Dame, Adonis feels like he let his friend down. It is a lie he had been telling himself for decades. It caused him not to write or visit Dame while his friend is locked up. You see these emotions play out on Adonis’ face when encountering Dame for the first time in nearly two decades. In other words, he has been repressing the past. You also notice this play out with Tessa in how closed off he is from his wife. As old memories resurface, Adonis becomes more distant. It takes the love Tessa has for him to get him straight. This is the time of Lent, which ends with Jesus dying on the Cross, only to rise again. We are taught as Catholics and Christians that Our Savior took our sins, indeed, those of the whole world, with Him to the Crucifixion. It was meant as an act of expiation for us all, and it through open the gates of Heaven. Today, we can continue this act by leaving the things that hold us back at the foot of the Cross, to be taken care of by God’s own Hand. This is what Adonis must do in order to defeat Dame, and to move on with his life. He gets a boost when, at the end, Dame encourages Adonis to let go of what happened between them as teenagers.
I wonder, but only a little, if Creed III will be the last of these films. If what has come before it is any indication, there will probably be more. I do not understand what else they could do. Will they have a middle-aged Adonis fighting on the moon? Boxing can be dramatic, cinematically and in real life. Ultimately, though, it is two guys in a ring trying to knock each other out. I am not sure how different you can make these films. Still, here is hoping that it is the last one, and it is a pretty good send-off if that is the case.