If you thought Jonathan Majors was sinister in the new Ant-Man movie, wait until you set your eyes on him in Creed III. Bulked out and angry as sin, he essentially plays a more grounded version of Michael B. Jordan’s Black Panther character Killmonger, and now I’ve referenced two Marvel movies in the opening paragraph of a review about a boxing film.
Creed III is a legitimate and worthy sequel in the franchise—one of the most reliable and long running in history if you go all the way back to the original Rocky. Sly Stallone isn’t in this one—nor is his character even referenced—but Creed III largely sticks to the tried and true boxing formula to results you’d expect.
Jordan is once again great as Adonis Creed, but it is Majors who turns (and punches) heads. From the moment he appears on screen he is an elusively unsettling force, and when his true colors emerge he becomes downright savage. He’s a great villain and one that powers Creed III.
The rest of the movie is… good. While the story and writing are solid, some of the drama here feels a bit forced; Adonis doesn’t want to open up to his wife (Tessa Thompson), his young daughter is getting in fights in school (a storyline that is oddly introduced and then dropped), and he is pussyfooting around his mama’s health issues. All of these things pad the runtime but distract from the movie’s heartbeat: the tense and dynamic relationship between Creed and Majors’s Damian.
After Damian’s big reveal midway through, the movie should have leaned into him more. He unleashes his fury on the Creed family but most of this is simply implied; it’s a weird beat to skip.
The film’s third act, which involves the stereotypical training sequences and climactic boxing match, is good but falls a bit short of great. Jordan, in his directorial debut, delivers some really incredible boxing sequences but doesn’t fully capture the emotion at hand (there’s a reason the Rocky movies always play that amazing Rocky track at key moments). Jordan takes some artistic license with the final showdown, a move I found slightly off putting in the moment but one that ultimately isn’t a big deal. A bigger deal: the post-bout scene between the two fighters. It doesn’t feel deserved or realistic.
Creed III isn’t perfect and is a far cry from the greatest boxing movies of all time, but it’s an entertaining stick-to-formula sports drama with some powerhouse performances. And unlike Ant-Man, you can see Majors chew scenery in something worth watching.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.