The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
I saw “Creed III” in theaters when it came out in March, and I walked away very impressed by the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan. Even though we were only three months into the new year, I felt it was an early candidate for one of the best films of 2023. I enjoyed his creative and inventive approach to filmmaking, the tremendous acting throughout the film, and the way it was paced just perfectly. Here we are, almost half-way through the year, and I feel even stronger about “Creed III.” It really surpassed any and all expectations I had for the film, and it also shows the “Rocky/Creed” franchise is in very good hands. Much like the “Scream” franchise did with “Scream 6,” it proved you can leave a key player or two from the franchise behind and not miss a beat if you have your heart in the right place, a good script, and you forge your own path while also remembering the pulse of the franchise.
I think by now it is common knowledge that Sylvester Stallone is not in “Creed III.” Stallone expressed his reasons why in interviews, and while I would have enjoyed him in this film, even if it was only in a minor role, I can’t say he was missed. I say this as a huge fan of Stallone and his contributions to the “Rocky/Creed” franchise. It says more about the fact that Jordan took the bull by the horns and really ran with it when it came to “Creed III.” He’s in front of and behind the camera here, and from what he showed me as a director, I can’t wait to see what he does with his next project. He has a keen visual sense and tremendous style without losing the heart and emotional weight of the film.
“Creed III” opens by showing us a young Adonis Creed hanging out with his friend from his group home, Damian Anderson. They are like brothers to one another, and Damian looks out for Adonis. Damian is on the rise as a young up and comer until he finds himself in prison for pulling out a gun while defending a young Adonis. Adonis ran away and never faced any jail time. Damian, on the other hand, spent almost two decades in prison and saw his chance go by the wayside. Adonis is ready for retirement after winning his final fight and leaving as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He’s now a family man with a beautiful house, wife, and young daughter.
Adonis is also running his own gym with the help of Little Duke (Wood Harris) and helping promote a fight for the world heavyweight champion Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.) against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). On his way out of the gym one day, he runs into Damian (Jonathan Majors) who is out of prison and looking to make up for lost time. He wants to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world, as he was a top prospect and a Golden Gloves champion before he ended up in prison. Adonis agrees to let him hang around the gym and spar with Felix, but he feels uneasy about having him around and wonders what his true intentions are, especially after all these years.
As a matter of fact, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) is not too keen about Damian being around, as she remembers some of the trouble he and Adonis would get into as youngsters. Adonis is also dealing with parenthood as his hearing-impaired daughter Amara, played perfectly by Mila Davis-Kent, is having trouble expressing herself in school. When she is being bullied by another student, she resorts to violence instead of working things out in a more peaceful way. This is very troubling to her mother Bianca, played by the lovely Tessa Thompson. She is looking to raise their daughter to express her emotions in a more productive way instead of resorting to violence. For Bianca, she’s been adjusting to her career as a producer. While she enjoys it, she also misses performing and doing her own thing. However, she must also be protective of her hearing as she doesn’t want to cause further damage. She’s also noticing Adonis is pulling away from her and that something is bothering him. It’s clear he has unresolved guilt and anger from his past with Damian. Until he deals with those feelings, he will never be able to move forward in his life and will be stuck in the past.
I have to give major credit to the women of “Creed III” from Rashad to Thompson to Davis-Kent. They are attempting to help Adonis see the forest from the trees and learn that it’s okay for him to open up about his past and talk about his regrets and his pain. It’s not good for him to bottle it all up inside. The two main male characters played by Jordan and Majors are also terrific together on screen. Jordan is fantastic at expressing his emotions on his face and not overacting. That being said, he knows when to tap into an emotion, anger, and turmoil when the scene calls for it. His facials here are terrific, and he knows how to tap into whatever the screenplay needs out of him. Majors reminded me and others of a young Mike Tyson. He will do whatever it takes to win, and he is physically imposing and carries a tremendous presence on screen. When he’s on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him.
For a film which is nearly two hours long, there is rarely a dull moment. There is something dramatic which occurs in the film (no spoilers) that seemed to get glossed over and moved on from very quickly. It seemed rather unnecessary, and that is my only gripe with the film. As with any “Rocky” or “Creed” movie, the best scenes are not in the ring. The best scenes are the characters talking to one another, figuring out their inner conflict, and dealing with the past and the present. Yes, it’s a boxing movie, but the boxing ring serves as a therapeutic canvas for them to work out their pain. That being said, the boxing scenes are beautifully shot and are the best kind I’ve seen in a boxing film in a long time. Jordan makes some really interesting choices as a director, and they worked out perfectly for him.
“Creed III” is a feel-good film with a big heart behind it. It has a great soundtrack with some real bangers on it. It also has some fantastic acting from everyone in the cast. There isn’t a bad performance to be found here. The stakes also seem very high throughout. There is an urgency here. For a first-time director, this is a very, very impressive debut. I can see them carrying on the “Creed” franchise with Jordan working both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera. He really hit a home run here, and I loved this movie from start to finish.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
4K Info: “Creed III” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It is rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language. It has a running time of 116 minutes. The 4K combo pack also comes with a digital code for the film.
Video Info: I loved the way this film looked in 4K. Warner Brothers has become one of the top studios for 4K releases, and they do not disappoint here with “Creed III.” I’m always happy when a film gets the Dolby Vision treatment, and this film is spectacular looking. We get a detailed, clean, and smooth look with dark darks to set the mood for the emotional trauma Creed is dealing with inside of him. This film really, really pops on 4K. Dolby Vision and Warner Brothers are always a match made in heaven. I truly was impressed by this 4K transfer and how it lends itself to the film.
Audio Info: More good news—we also get a Dolby Atmos track! For a film like this with great music and intense boxing action, you have to have a good Atmos track. The Atmos track makes the film sound absolutely perfect. Warner Brothers really did the right thing by “Creed III,” and I’m very thankful for that.
Michael B. Jordan: In the Ring/Behind the Camera – Featurette
There’s No Enemy Like the Past: Donnie and Dame – Featurette
Should You Buy It?
If you saw it in theaters like I did, I’m happy to report it holds up very, very well on a second viewing. It’s one of the reasons why I love to watch a movie in the theater and then at home. It’s two totally different viewing experiences, and you pick up on certain things you might have missed initially. It was actually better on a second viewing. I highly recommend you pick this film up on its release date on 4K. It is truly the best way to watch this great film. With Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, Warner Brothers really did a magnificent job of putting this film together for a great home-viewing experience. The supplements are a little light, and I would have liked a commentary with director/actor Michael B. Jordan, but still, this is a day-one purchase. I’m not sure how the rest of the year will play out, but this film is still one of the best of 2023, in my opinion. I loved the powerful performances, incredible emotion, ingenious boxing sequences, and how much fun this movie was. I highly recommend “Creed III” as a movie to proudly own on 4K. You won’t be disappointed.
**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.