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Abandoning the “Creed” series’s tendency to mirror the action of the acclaimed “Rocky” films, “Creed 3” paves a distinctive path away from its predecessors. What results is a remarkable exploration of visuals and narrative, creating a film that is instrumental in cementing Adonis Creed’s own memorable cinematic legacy.
Michael B. Jordan, the film’s star and director, centers “Creed 3” around the comfortably opulent and influential boxing legend Adonis Creed amid his transition into retirement, a full seven years after the events of “Creed 2.” Creed’s violent past, however, begins to resurface as childhood friend, Damian (Jonathan Myers), finishes his prison term and comes back to fulfill his own dreams of becoming champion.
Despite holding a spot in the “Rocky” franchise, the film grapples with the remnants of Creed’s past rather than Rocky’s, excluding Sylvester Stallone entirely from the cast. The remaining plot features a long-deserved focus on the fighter for which the trilogy is named. This refreshing shift complements Jordan’s expressive, novel directing style — setting the film up to top the two films it follows.
The film’s largest contribution to the franchise lies in its meaningful narrative. Creed’s boxing journey previously had one set path: fighting to win the title. But “Creed 3” not only lifts Creed out of the shadow of his father’s career, it also places the movie outside the traditional boxing narrative. The film’s exploration of weighty themes of childhood trauma and forgiveness complements the violent nature of the sport, adding dimension that is indubitably more fulfilling than other sports films.
Looking for meaning solely beyond the film’s fights, however, would be ill-advised. Jordan’s creativity is a revolutionary addition in capturing the complexity of the ring. Creed’s final fight begins with expected shots of a boxing match surrounded by thousands of eyes in an arena. Although, in mere moments, Jordan strips this cinematic expectation away, shooting the entire fight in an empty stadium. A focus on the two fighters and the past they are desperate to escape — amidst the constraints of the ring — is an outstanding display of cinematic exploration that sets the film apart.
Where the film loses some of its creative stamina is in its pacing. The beginning half of the film simply drags on far slower than a “Creed” movie should, proving that building on the story of Adonis Creed undoubtedly requires some less-than-interesting work. Notwithstanding successful narrative additions, the film falls short on creating enough constantly engaging scenes that have epitomized the trilogy for nearly a decade.
Jonathan Major’s notable stand-out performance, however, makes up for the film’s slower pace. Major is not only a new face, but the most dynamic opponent Creed has ever faced. Excellent emotive delivery and passionate performances allows Majors to bring his multifaceted villain to life. In addition to Major’s performance, notable cameos of Creed’s past opponents, such as Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), were heartwarming reminders of the series’ growth.
The series’s reputation for exceptional soundtracks certainly does not falter in the new film. “Creed 3” features a series of tracks produced by J.Cole’s Dreamville Records, with a blend of high-intensity and melodic pieces that coalesce into an outstanding complement to each scene. And, in “Creed” fashion, the film went further to perfectly tailor iconic “Creed” and “Rocky” theme music to scenes that developed themes from past films.
“Creed 3,” above all, works hardest in excelling beyond its impressive style to simply create a fulfilling addition to a franchise 44 years in the making. The film undeniably represents the future of sporting cinema — pivoting from a superficial sports movie to an adept reflection on the life and legacy of its central star.
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