Creed III

You know I love the CREED movies and the ROCKY movies. ROCKY V is easily the weakest of all of them, and I even like that one. I don’t expect there ever to be another one as impressive as CREED, a miraculous rebirth by a brilliant director who deeply loved Stallone’s movies and evolved them into something new, so I enjoyed CREED II for what it was. I was thrilled that it brought back Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago and let us care about him the way I always wanted to. As I wrote in my review at the time, “He was a human specimen in ROCKY IV, and now he’s a human.”

CREED II is a solid sequel, but CREED III is a truly great one. It’s the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan, and being populated only by characters from the CREED part of the series it stands more on its own, less on our nostalgia and good will. It follows the ROCKY sequel template in that it checks in with Adonis Creed (Jordan) at a new stage of his career and life, catches up with his family, introduces a new rival, and builds up a conflict that will result in a big match wrapped up in personal meaning. To his credit, Jordan also introduces a bit of stylization in the fight scenes that stands out from the others in the series. But most importantly he tells a story that genuinely has things to say about life and relationships that to me is as exciting as any of the boxing.

The reason CREED III is able to achieve that is that it has by far Creed’s greatest opponent, “Diamond” Dame Anderson, who captures the “oh shit, this guy is gonna murder him” physical presence of Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago, but with much more thorough and layered characterization, a complex life-long relationship with Adonis, and an honestly awards-worthy performance by Jonathan Majors (HOSTILES, DA 5 BLOODS, THE HARDER THEY FALL). That’s not to say that those other iconic characters were lacking anything, but that this is a thrillingly different approach to the material.

When we first met Adonis in CREED, he didn’t know he was Apollo Creed’s son, and he was in a juvenile detention center. Dame is a friend from those days. When they got out it was Dame who seemed to have the brightest future in boxing. We see it in a cold open, set in 2002, with 15-year-old Adonis (Thaddeus J. Mixson) sneaking out at night as if to get into trouble, but it’s really to watch 18-year-old Dame (Spence Moore II) box. He wins the fight and they’re in a celebratory mood until Adonis happens to run into an adult he knows named Leon (Aaron D. Alexander, Sonnny Liston from ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…) and starts beating him up.

The rest of this event will be left ambiguous until later. Most of the movie takes place in the present, with Adonis having retired from the ring three years ago. He runs L.A.’s Delphi Boxing Academy (in a fancier gym now) with family friend and trainer Little Duke (Wood Harris, SOUTHLAND TALES). They’ve mentored the current world champion, Felix Chavez (boxer Jose Benavidez), who’s preparing to defend his title from Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu, SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS).

Adonis’s wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson, MAKE IT HAPPEN) stopped performing her music because of her hearing loss, but is a very successful producer/songwriter. Their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) is at an age where she makes him play tea party but also show her how to punch.

When Dame unexpectedly shows up outside the gym one day, Adonis takes him to lunch and we learn that the reason they haven’t seen each other in so long is because Dame just got out of prison. There’s a sense of uneasiness – Adonis feeling embarrassed to have so much in front of someone who has so little, feeling like an asshole when he tries to give him money and is turned down. All Dame wants is to box again, so Adonis hooks him up with a gig as sparring partner for Felix. And he tries to reconnect, inviting him over for dinner. Bianca is excited to meet him and quickly picks up that there’s alot Adonis never told her – she never even knew he lived in a group home.

The ROCKY movies love Adrian, but the CREED movies respect Bianca. She supports him in his boxing but has her own passions that he gets to support. In this one I get the feeling she might be more famous than he is – seriously, how many people give two shits about boxing, versus how many listen to music? Nevertheless, when Adonis humbly tells Dame it’s his wife and daughters’ house, “I just live here,” he’s surrounded by a wall full of his belts and a billboard-sized photo of himself. He’s a kind and good person, but we all have our issues.

I think Adonis has a closer connection to his kid than Rocky did to his. Not including the childhood prologue, Adonis’s first and last CREED III scenes are goofing around with Amara. And I can’t say it doesn’t make me happy that she’s learning to box and they probly have it in the back of their minds that there could be an AMARA CREED movie some day just like I requested in my part II review. I like that he sees her going through things that he did even though her circumstances are so different from his. Bianca has to chide him for being surprised that a school for deaf kids has bullies and fights like any other school. But raising Amara together connects Adonis and Bianca even further. Since he learned ASL for them, Bianca can talk to him from the crowd while he’s in the ring.

Dame seems honored to meet the family, but he tends to bring up things to Adonis and Bianca that are a little uncomfortable – I thought you’d always keep the old gym, you never answered my letters, I was surprised you moved out of the hood, doesn’t it feel weird to see someone else performing your song. I think we’re meant to think this is manipulation, and maybe it is, but couldn’t it just be Dame sincerely expressing his point-of-view? It seems like a pretty understandable one.

As much tension as there is between these two old friends, it’s actually worse than we knew: the crime Dame did time for was pulling a gun to back up Adonis in that fight he started with Leon. When the police came, Adonis literally ran away, and he didn’t keep in touch with Dame when he was locked up. So there’s tremendous resentment on one side and guilt on the other. Still, I don’t think their friendship is a lie. I think Adonis genuinely wants to help, and Dame genuinely doesn’t want anything but the shot he thinks he deserves. It’s unfair when he asks for more than the sparring gig, for an actual title shot, but he makes it sound a little less absurd by reminding us that it’s basically the entire premise of the ROCKY series that Adonis’ dad fought an unknown schlub as a promotional gimmick. Why did Rocky deserve that more than him?

And Dame does have that underdog spirit. CREED III echoes ROCKY III in the sense that Clubber Lang was such a mirror image of Rocky’s past – a true underdog, a fighter who didn’t have anything handed to him on a plate. Yet he was the bad guy, because he was just such an asshole! Dame is a more complex version of that. He’s more likable than Clubber, more humble, so at times it seems like we might start rooting for him. We see him in a tiny apartment doing pushups, shadowboxing, inspiring himself with newspaper clippings on the walls and the bathroom mirror.

This series has taught us to love the guy who trains in the meat freezer, the snow or the hospital stairwell, so that should be our guy. But Dame wants it so bad he cheats, he fights dirty, he does things that are much too dishonorable to forgive right away, and when he’s called on it he turns bully, basically calling Adonis a bitch and telling him he doesn’t need him anymore. There’s a twist I saw coming and you will too. That’s okay. It gives Adonis a damn good reason to come out of retirement to fight Dame.

I need to mention Sylvester Stallone, who is credited as creator and producer, but is not in the movie, even in photo form as far as I noticed. He obviously started all this, from the characters and the format to the path that Jordan is taking from star to star/director. And his character and performances are the heart of CREED and CREED II. So it’s kind of sad for him not to be in the movie, and very sad that he feels screwed over by the producers of the series and has such bad feelings about it that he has said he will never watch CREED III. It’s just too bad. I hope somebody figures out a way to make it right.

But what’s good about it for part III is that it’s really a chance for Adonis to stop looking as much to the past and forge his own path. Apollo and Rocky are mentioned a little bit, but Adonis does not seem to be in either of their shadows. It’s cool to see Adonis’s previous opponents, now as his friends, but that just seems like the natural progression of this series. It doesn’t feel like a callback. Nobody was saying “Ricky Conlan is back. The fans are gonna go crazy for this!”

The script is credited to Keenan Coogler (SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY) & Zach Baylin (KING RICHARD), who share a story credit with Ryan Coogler, and they do a great job of both building the skeleton and putting meat on it. There are minor things that could be nitpicked with the story as it ultimately ended up on screen; I know we’re all supposed to love movies being as short as possible, but Mama Creed (Phylicia Rashad, SOUL)’s part in this one is a little too economical. It still got me because she hits her important emotional character points, but it would work better if she had more time in between to just be that character. The pay off for going a little light on family members, though, is the tremendous focus they’re able to put on Adonis and Dame.

Vyce Victus of Action For Everyone called CREED III “a fascinating snapshot of the African American male psyche in 2023,” and I get the sense that’s part of Jordan’s intent. I think he indicates it visually when he shows the red black and green stripes on the back of Adonis’s cape, intermingling with the red white and blue inherited from his father’s ring attire, then shows Dame’s trunks, adorned with red black and green diamonds. When Apollo Creed first wore the stars and stripes in ROCKY it was almost trolling; in ROCKY IV it was a more sincere “I represent America” statement. Even your average Paulie on the street who can’t stand a cocky Black man being at the top of the sport could set that aside and get behind Apollo to beat the commies. I think Adonis’s new cape honors his dad, acknowledges what he got from him, and represents his own achievement of the American dream, but it also says he won’t allow you to separate his American-ness from his Blackness. Do you remember in DO THE RIGHT THING when Pino explained to Mookie that his favorite athletes, comedians and musicians are Black because “I mean, they’re Black but not really Black. They’re more than Black. It’s different”? Well, Adonis doesn’t want to be that guy.

Dame’s outfit is more aspirational. His symbol is a diamond, because diamonds represented his idea of success when he was young, and therefore the dream that was deferred during his 18 years of incarceration. But he chose the same Pan-African color scheme that Adonis did. Two men coming from, in many senses, the same background, ending up at different places. But also the same place.

So there are definitely some culturally-specific ideas here, but the movie will speak to all kinds of people in different ways. When Bianca says “You need to talk to someone – if not me, then someone,” and Adonis later doesn’t want to talk to her because he doesn’t feel like “a therapy session,” I get the idea that she believes in therapy but he resists it, and she doesn’t want to push it on him. My family didn’t put a stigma on mental health care like some do, but I still somehow grew up with the unconscious belief that masculinity requires keeping your emotions inside, that showing them is weakness, that it’s better to deal with those things in private, on your own. And in my adult life I’ve really had to fight to get past that, to learn how to talk openly about things that matter, for myself and for my marriage and friendships. It’s maybe the most important grown up shit I’ve managed to learn, so it hits me hard to see a fucking boxing movie that’s all about that – especially in a series that has glorified some of those ideals of manly stubbornness that we, and Adonis, need to get over in order to be better people. What’s the point of training-montaging your body until each individual muscle is like a rock that could crush a human skull, if you’re not willing to put any effort into improving the actual human being encased inside those fuckin things? CREED III knows the appeal of macho bullshit, but gently shows us why we need to unlearn some of it.

Before Adonis and Dame do that, obviously they’re gonna box, and I think what has impressed many people most about Jordan as a director is how well he (with supervising stunt coordinator Clayton J. Barber [BLADE II, BLACK PANTHER, THE PRINCESS, Gangs of London] and choreographer Mark R. Miscione [assistant fight coordinator for THE GRAY MAN]) put together these fights. I personally don’t think they top the intensity of Coogler’s, but Jordan does his own thing. He shot them in Imax, and the movie looks great in that format. Much of the promotion has revealed that Jordan is a big anime fan, and I noticed that young Adonis has a few anime posters on his bedroom wall. Sure enough the influence comes out in many extreme closeups of eyes, slow motion punches, some angles that make their bodies look bizarrely proportioned like very expressive drawings, and vivid details like the shot of Adonis being hit hard in the gut followed by a shot of sweat flying off of his back from the impact.

The biggest stylistic swing is when Adonis and Dame become so focused that the crowd disappears and they battle it out in a sort of psychological plane, as if Freddy Krueger caught them. I’m happy that I haven’t yet encountered the rat soup eating motherfucker who will make fun of that touch. I loved it. But what got me even more than that is between rounds when Adonis looks across the ring at Dame and in his mind Dame is still young. So Adonis is remembering that this is the kid he abandoned, who lost everything for trying to help him in a fight he started.

That’s great, but the kicker is when the real Dame, the adult, looks across at Adonis and also sees the young version. The kid he lost everything for, and never heard from again, until he got out. So at this crucial point in the match, and in the story, Jordan as director is forcing us to sympathize with the opponent who he’s built up to make us root against. He’s reminding us that it’s way more complicated than good guys and bad guys.

And maybe that wouldn’t work if Majors weren’t so damn good in it. Even after all these years of super hero makeovers it was kind of awe-inspiring to see him transform into this ridiculous muscle monster and perform feats of strength like the seemingly real shot of double rope climbing in the training montage. He achieves so much with physicality that I’m afraid people will overlook what an incredible performance it is also in the more traditional sense of creating this vivid person through voice and expression and presence. (I think this is a regional thing but I kept noticing him sounding like Ryan Coogler.)

I hope you haven’t read this whole review if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re trying to stay fresh, but I’m about to drop what I’d consider a BIG SPOILER for the structure of the movie and why it becomes next level at the end. We get the triumphant ending to the match, and there’s a sense from previous ROCKY movies and other sports movies that it could go to the credits right there. “Yo Adrian!,” freeze frame, credits. But I was so relieved it kept going because the “unfinished business” Adonis said he had when he left boxing doesn’t feel like it had anything to do with boxing. He’s facing his past and his fear and his guilt in the ring, but still, that’s just boxing. The lesson he’s learning from Bianca in the movie is to talk about things, not hold them in, and not think he can solve them by punching. So the real way to face his fear, and his guilt, the real way not to run, is to talk to Dame. That’s why the climax of the movie is not the fight – it’s after the fight when Adonis finally gets the courage to talk to Dame about the uncomfortable truths he’s been dancing around, that Dame has been using as weapons against him. They clear the air, so now when Dame tells him to go celebrate with his family, we know it’s not some psychological game, it really is a friend talking to a friend.

CREED III is beautiful because it has something real to say about friendships, marriages, and masculinity, and it fully recognizes that that’s more important than a fuckin sports triumph. But it gives you that too. The unified champion of sports and life.

Music post-script, presented separately so I don’t lose you in the middle of the review by going on too long about the use of one song:

Ludwig Göransson, whose score for CREED is one of its many facets that seemed almost too good to be true, is only credited as score producer for CREED III. The composer is Joseph Shirley, who did programming for the previous CREEDs, and scored episodes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. He does a good job of adapting the old themes and adding new ones that follow in the same spirit of mixing triumphant orchestral music with modern electronic sounds.

But there’s a particular musical choice in the opening scene that kinda made me fall in love with the movie right away. (It’s not on the score album, so I don’t know if Shirely is responsible.) As 2002 Dame and Adonis drive to the boxing venue the music gradually reveals itself as a re-orchestration of “The Watcher,” the opening track on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic 2001, and then it goes into the actual song. It just sounds so fucking good, and seems believable for what those two might be listening to. And thinking about it afterwards I realized that the song reflects things that end up happening to both characters. Some of the first verse sounds like Dame in prison, resentfully watching time pass as other people live his dreams (“I’ve seen ‘em come, I’ve watched ‘em go / Watched ‘em rise, witnessed it and watched ‘em blow / Watched ‘em all blossom and watched ‘em grow.”)The chorus sounds like when he got out. “Everywhere that I go / Ain’t the same as befo’ / People I used to know / Just don’t know me no mo’.” Then part of the first verse sounds like Adonis, specifically things Dame pokes him about: “I moved out of the hood for good, you blame me?”

Since I’m old enough to have bought Chronic 2001 at Tower Records at midnight the night it came out (after multiple false alarms when the album was delayed) I’m afraid I do not know who Dreamville is, but he did most of the song soundtrack, which is pretty effective in the movie. There’s a training montage song – “Adonis Interlude (The Montage)” by Dreamville with J. Cole – that mixes “The Watcher” with Göransson’s CREED theme and has the line “arms crossed and confident like you was from Wakanda” – referencing another Jordan, Coogler and Göransson joint!


This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 8th, 2023 at 11:11 am and is filed under Reviews, Drama, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

46 Responses to “Creed III”


    A reliably thoughtful and heartfelt review. I genuinely overlooked the insight about how facing up to talking things out is the true final fight for Adonis here: That reading makes sense and it adds some nice layers. Will have to ponder that.

    Also, I can’t disagree with you about the performances (especially Majors’s, but pretty much all of them): they’re all in the solid-to-phenomenal level. The gadfly in me would like to say that Majors is overrated … but he’s just not. He really is that good. I find him incredibly charismatic — hypnotizing, almost — and easily the highlight of this film. And I was glad to see Bianca/Tessa Thompson getting more to do here and killing it. A lot of other individual elements I loved, too: The sign language, the Pretty Ricky fight, the redemption/good-guy turn for Viktor. Wood Harris was great and had some really nice moments … that were almost undone by that cringey “Let go of the past and step into [… something something]” line at the end.

    Aside from the fact that the final montage and final boxing match were both a likely franchise worst for me*, my chief problems with the films were pacing, narrative, character consistency (motivation and personality), and the underlying message the film sends, which I think is essentially doubling down on the idea that wealthy people are entitled to their wealth and that this has no particularly negative psychological or spiritual effect. As I get to in the back half of my own write-up, when you trace the long arc of Rocky (from Rocky I through Creed II), there’s a clear take away that wealth and opulence — like heroin and kiddie porn — have an inherently psychologically and spiritually degrading effect. ROCKY III is all about how Rocky’s wealth and sense of having arrived leads to complacency, entitlement, and misplaced overconfidence. ROCKY IV is all about how this same state proves fatal for Apollo, and how Rocky learns from and avoids that fate by doing the opposite — embracing poverty and minimalism in the Russian arctic. And then ROCKY V through CREED II (for the Rocky character, at least) really cements this as the deeper arc of the series, which is that we are healthiest and most human/e when we are rooted and among the people, living as their equals (geographically and in terms of material standard of living).

    When we get away from this (as Rocky and Apollo are in the beginning acts of ROCKY III and IV, respectively), we are headed in the wrong direction. This message seems wholly lost and even inverted with Adonis here. For me, it reflects a kind of spiritual-moral crisis for the films. Apollo the flashy showboat who craves the limelight and is all about dollar signs is fine as a supporting character, but not as the lead, because that is ultimately a fairly bankrupt value system and worldview. In elevating that mentality to the leading role (as in Adonis), we lose the moral center of these films. This does not make Adonis a “bad guy,” but it does make him a profoundly less relatable guy, and many of the things he signals that we should aspire to are the opposite of the things that the Rocky films have said we should aspire to (and I am decidedly team Rocky, not team Apollo/Mary Anne on this one). That said, I’ll definitely grant that we should aspire to humanize our enemies and settle our differences with words (though even this is a bit of a mixed message, as Adonis settles things with fists before words). In his capacity as dad, husband, mentor, friend, physical specimen, and overall charming hunk a man, Adonis is clearly … well, and Adonis. He’s very good. Too good.

    Setting aside such philosophical disagreements and getting back to the filmatism, a lot of the plot shifts, character beats, and character shifts seem unearned and abrupt. You can miss this if you’re so caught up appreciating how awesome the actors are. I have no doubt that Jonathan Majors could given an affecting pitch for me to invest in Crypto or homeopathic supplements, and I’d be like, “Damn, he seems convincing.” Concerns about narrative and pacing are not just small technical dings, but it really gets to how convincing Damian’s motivations and change(s) of heart are. That final scene with Damian and Adonis would be beautiful if anything about the previous 110 minutes made such a quick, easy peace-making seem plausible or earned (vs. convenient). I ramble on about this at some length in the letterboxd link I left under Vern’s CREED II review, and I’ll just leave it there.

    *I liked some of MBJ’s visual flares in the boxing matches, but I will go ahead and be the proverbial ratfuck who thinks that they come across as hackneyed in cheesy in the final fight (why / how are they simultaneously seeing each other as kids, and if they are not, then is this just the film breaking the third wall and telling us that *we* should see them as the kids they once were?– either way, it’s a strange achievement in showing and not telling but somehow still telling us how to feel).

    In summary, I definitely will re-watch this multiple times, I desperately hope I come around, and I desperately wish I could be in full-throated agreement with Vern here (we’ll always have HALLOWEEN KILLS, I guess). Splurged for the IMAX and spent 20 minutes leading up geeking out with my friend about how awesome this was going to be, and I don’t shell out that kinda coin and time to hate-watch.

  2. [i]I do not know who Dreamville is, but he did most of the song soundtrack, which is pretty effective in the movie. There’s a training montage song – “Adonis Interlude (The Montage)” by Dreamville with J. Cole[/i]

    I was under the impression that “Dreamville” is J. Cole, and the moniker is just an umbrella for a number of his endeavors (record label, production, etc)

  3. Oh yes, you’re right! I was misled by Spotify listing that track as “Dreamville w/ J. Cole.”

  4. @Skani I’ll also cop to being a rat soup eating motherfucker there. I like the idea of doing essentially a montage to cover the time between the opening rounds and the final moments of the match, but it’s done in such a weirdly show-offy way that it takes me out of the movie.

    Which is where I’m at for a lot of the movie. Getting what they were going for and admiring the intent, but being unenthused with the result. Like keeping Damian and Adonis’s past a secret for so long that it feels off or even forgetful of the movie (I think they actually tell us Adonis ran away before showing it to us in flashback). And with all that heavy-handed stuff with Bianca about how violence isn’t the answer, it turns out that violence is the answer and afterward you just have to go up to the guy you pummeled for an hour and go “hey man, no hard feelings, right?”

    I don’t think Warrior quite stuck the landing either with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, but I think it got closer to what Cre3d was going for–and Tom Hardy was *way* less of a villain than Damian, making it weird that his reconciliation with Edgerton was way harder.

    (To fanfic a moment, I kind of wanted an ending where Adonis manages to beat Damian in the Big Fight–and then Damian just shows up *at his house,* because that doesn’t settle anything for him. But that’s probably too Rocky 5.)

    And to go back to what Skani was saying about the narrative going easy on Adonis, I find it odd that his character’s ultimate thesis is saying “It wasn’t my fault.” Well, yeah, I guess–his mom hiding the letters from him (and then conveniently dying so he couldn’t stay mad at her) compounded the problem, but him starting the fight in the first place did cause a lot of trouble. And Damian having an unlicensed firearm was also a bad idea. (It amuses me to imagine the movie is arguing that draconian gun laws made Damian a monster, but that’s probably not what they were going for.)

    What I’m saying is I think they needed something more complicated than a bog-standard Good Will Hunting breakthrough to be what finally ends the beef between these two. It’s almost insultingly simplistic: they want to send people home happy and they know it’s unsettling to the audience for Damian to stay this twisted villain he’s become, so they have him say “well, guess I’m done being a wrathful motherfucker.”

  5. Kaplan, I’m not here for any of the vaguely right-coded allusions or barbs (like the gun thing), as I prefer to just make my politics explicit (I’m an unrepentant Democrat who would be proud to align with Biden/Bernie/Sherrod Brown/Raphael Warnock but who thinks left social media / online culture is a dumpster fire of addictive and ever-escalating moral panic and purity testing that plays directly into the hands of our well and truly depraved and morally bankrupt GOP). But I think we do agree about some of the substantive criticism of this film. I think they just needed to develop Damian better and commit to a character arc for him. It plays as less of an arc than just a series of random heel turns, heel escalations, and face turns taking place precisely when and as fast as plot contrivances need it, as opposed to being in surface of some organic growth and percolation of who Dame is. Majors is just so good that you still are entranced by everything he says and does (but then you’re like, wait, why would the guy who just did that now be so quickly or easily doing this … oh, I know why, because that’s what the template/feels apparently needs him to do RIGHT NOW). It’s like Hulk Hogan’s entire wrestling career compressed into a single film storyline. It’s not a bad film and has many great elements, I am just passionate about some of the important things I think it gets wrong.

  6. oops, “service,” not “surface.”

  7. I was saying the ‘draconian gun laws’ thing in jest. Just amused me that the movie is saying Damian was punished too harshly, but if you said “people should get light sentences for gun crimes” in your average Creed production meeting, I doubt you’d get too many nods.

    Agree on Jonathan Majors being great in the role, but I think they gave the character too much ambiguity. There’s a version of Creed 3 where Damian is putting on an act all along and just shows his true colors once he’s gotten all the use he needs out of Adonis’s friendship, and a version where he really does consider himself friends with Adonis and only gets angry with him when Adonis “turns against him”. But they needed to commit to one or the other and instead they seemed to flip-flop a bit between whichever made for the best scene at that point in the narrative.

    I do like the idea that being friends with Adonis is Damian’s version of being related to Apollo Creed–his golden ticket that gets him out of the grind and into the sweet life (that’s actually about as good an analogy as Damian being Evil Rocky). I think they could’ve said some interesting things about the hustle mindset, which would’ve fit with the recontextualized Clubber Lang archetype they’re doing, but instead they went with a more hackneyed “you need to get in touch with your feelings!” arc. Which contributes to the lacking thematics.

    Adonis’s problem isn’t that there’s something wrong with his life or what he’s doing, it’s just that he feels guilty about it. His character arc is just to stop feeling guilty. Obviously, that’s some weaksauce.

  8. I’m just glad they FINALLY, however fleetingly, acknowledged that Apollo had other kids before Adonis in this series and they might have acted a certain way towards him due to all the baggage. But I really dug it, even if I have to admit it’s a plot built on revisionism that perhaps clashes with what’s already established. Not just the Dame stuff, but Adonis supposedly being emotionally closed off, when the previous two movies seemed to depict him as a bit more open than that, and even having him calling out Rocky’s refusal to get chemo him being “too macho for that”.


    Also, while I’m glad Adonis and Dame reconciled at the end…is Viktor Drago going to be so forgiving? That feels like a bit of a loose thread to me.

  9. Stu – Yeah, they kind of duck that during the training, when they don’t tell us how much Viktor knows. His reaction to Adonis asking him how he is could mean he knows and is grumbling about it but knows Adonis wasn’t involved because he’s doing this fight to make up for it. But it was probly wise not to come out and say that because maybe it’s too much to swallow.

  10. Huge fan of a lot of the animes Jordan was name dropping in the lead up to this like Hajime no Ippo and Megalobox, to the point it got me to actually start the creed series on the weekend.
    Hey so they’re pretty fucking great movies huh?
    Can’t wait to see this one. And I hope he at least does one punch set to aeroplane engines winding up sound effects.

  11. Wasn’t it an odd choice to have Adonis retire in 2015, the year Creed came out? So three years later this takes place in 2018, the year Creed II came out. I suspect that was to make this take place before the pandemic but it makes the first two Creeds period pieces (and I don’t think the math of Dame’s prison stretch quite adds up).

    It happens. If Fasts 4-6 can be prequels to Tokyo Drift so can Creed III.

    I need to see this again in Imax. Weird they didn’t offer any Imax screenings for critics since they were pushing the Imax version so hard.

    Oh and Davis Kent told me she hopes to do Creed IV. I assured her since this franchise has been going since before I was born, it will surely continue long after.

  12. I didn’t catch that, I thought it said present day, but Wikipedia says he retires in 2017, making most of the movie 2020.

  13. I wrote down 2015 when it was on screen but maybe I got it wrong. It wasn’t confirmed in any other materials so no way to check until I see it again.

  14. That’s still a two year career though!

  15. And Amara is 7 now!

    Although Rocky Jr aged 3 years over the Christmas Rocky was in Russia so age works differently in this franchise.

  16. Multiple Brawls Broke Out During ’Creed III’ Screenings In Europe

    Videos of the fights quickly went viral online after multiple isolated incidents, leading to some theaters pulling the sequel.

    It’s apparently a Tiktok trend in France to fight in Creed 3 screenings.

  17. I hope this one releases on home video with a fair amount of deleted stuff, because rewatching the official trailer, there’s a couple of things I don’t remember the final movie having. A press conference scene where Rocky is mentioned, Dame wearing a tracking anklet when sparring, adult Donnie in the prison with Amara and Bianca as the prisoners chant his name.

  18. SPOILERS – Kaplan, I obviously agree about the weaknesses in Adonis’s characterization and arc and the shoe-horny / ret-conny quality of his main conflict here, which seems to either try to manufacture new past revelations or revive and rehash old Adonis “angry black male” trope character flaws (he is emotionally guarded and defiant because of macho and not having a dad). A lot of those issues seemed to be thoroughly worked out in CREED I and II, which is not to say you can’t have a relapse of difficult emotional/character patterns IRL, but in the context of a sprawling franchise, it felt like reruns, where I want to see character progress or regress get locked in or have real stakes for the character — not merely oscillation back and forth between growth and regression. I’d like to lock in some of that growth and move on to new character development stuff. In the end, I don’t think the film really convinces you that Adonis ever did anything all that bad (weak conflict), and then Bianca tells him in no uncertain terms that he deserves his current life and has nothing to feel guilty for, which seems to confirm that this is a weak conflict. Likewise, there is this theme of settling things with words and not fists that Vern brings up, but not only does Adonis settle things with fists first then words (military defeat first, then terms of peace), but the thread with his daughter using fists not words ultimately ends in her sparring with him in the ring. Not a clear message there.

    As for Damian, I could live with him going in any number of directions, to include a redemption arc or a “breaks even badder still” arc or more of a Clubber / Tommy arc. I don’t need him to be good or bad or even morally ambiguous, but I am in principle up for any of these, so long as I have a basic modicum of belief/conviction that a given character move or arc is sensible and earned — that the writing, direction, and editing have done the work. Majors clearly has done the work … I would watch a whole movie about Damian. Even now. That’s how good he is.

    I am still convinced that something much darker than shown actually did happen to / with Adonis than what we are given in the final film, which aligns with what Stu is saying about “delete stuff” and with Stallone’s criticism of the film’s darkness. As I’ve said elsewhere, I was certain they were going to reveal that Leon had molested Adonis or had done some other really heinous shit (like running a kids boxing betting ring or something). The way that is built up and then paid off just seems like it’s missing something, as the pay-off seems to under-deliver on the “this Leon guy was such a monster” build up and all of the allusions to Adonis’s deeply guarded past hurts around Leon and how that that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Like a lot of other things, where is missing connective tissue, and I prefer to believe that it exists but was hastily excised rather than believe it just never existed (which is not to guarantee that it would work if it was restored).

  19. *SPOILERS* There was audible gasp in the theater with Mama Creed’s “picture” reveal, so pat yourself on the back if you saw that coming, ‘cuz I sure didn’t.

    I hope we get one more proper Creed flick, preferably with Apollo turning to Papa Drago for training, before we go all in on spinoffs and the Creedverse.

  20. Kaplan, yeah, here in Germany we had also news from people going to the movies, just to stir up shit until the police shows up and people suspect it’s a Tik Tok trend. Not just in CREED III, but also other movies. Some theatres already hired heavier security, stopped taking coupons for all the big blockbusters and some theatres just stopped showing CREED already.

    Makes you wish these fuckers would go back to swallowing detergent. Well, too harsh. Maybe…just make annoying dance flashmobs to Lana Del Rey songs or whatever? I don’t know. Fuck them.

  21. Something I was thinking about Adonis’ relationship and connection with Bianca and his daughter is that he’s someone who has always had an easier time speaking with his hands than he has with his voice. I think in the scene where Dame meets them and learns a couple basic signs you see a recognition or a comfort there for him as well. It made me wonder if Bianca had tried signing with him rather than speaking, if Adonis would have been able to talk about his feelings earlier.

    Anyway I really liked the flick but I do think it feels off that this is the shortest Creed movie when it probably oughta be the longest, particularly after the turn. I feel like there’s room for more exploration of Dame in his new position and I’d be stoked if they announced an extended cut for bluray, but even as is I think the movie is pretty fuckin excellent.

  22. I always tell this story of going to see Rocky IV with a friend when I was 8. When the movie ended he asked if I wanted to play Rocky and poor naive child Fred said yes. He immediately punched me in the face.

    He’d be proud to know the tradition continues (or that I still remember that probably).

  23. Man, no idea how it took me so long to get hip to CREED II, I’d seem to be in the target market since ROCKY IV was very much my jam as a younger person and is still my favorite of the series even though it’s almost undeniably the cheesiest.

    But I finally did and damned if I really know how but CREED II is a mashup / remix / sequel to ROCKY II, III, and IV as well as CREED all at the same time and even if not as technically polished as its predecessor I found it at least as enjoyable as all four of them and even moreso in some ways. That’s some impressive end-to-end filmmaking in my book.

    So yeah I’ll definitely be checking this out.

  24. Watched CREED II again a couple of weeks ago, and it gets a little better with everything watch! Sure, it’s technically inferior to part I, but I’m definitely a sucker for all that daddy issues stuff (Adonis-Apollo, Adonis-Rocky, Rocky-Robert, Viktor-Ivan), and the throw the towel them is so beautiful. The fights are completely gripping. Top-tier montage. That scene with MBJ and Stallone when MBJ is in the hospital — man, that is Oscar-calibre, rip-your-heart-out-shit.

  25. Caught the IMAX today and it was outstanding. Chris Nolan would pee himself if he saw the IMAX boxing scenes.

    I did get the dates wrong but the timeline is still messed up. It is 2017 when he retired. Mayyyyyyyyve Creed II took place shortly after 1 and not the year it came out, but that’s still a very short 2 year heavyweight career.

    The main story specifies present day so that’s 2023 which checks out with Amara’s age. But the ESPN host does say it’s been 3 years since Adonis fought.

    This has been a message from Fact-checker Fred.

  26. GQ has a really good interview with co-writer Keenan Coogler about the movie:


    Skani, I think you might find it interesting because, although he doesn’t get into it too deeply, he talks about one of the main things you were hitting on, that Adonis’ wealth is treated differently from Rocky’s:

    “I was really passionate about exploring what makes Adonis different. I think the most fundamental difference is that because he’s Black, he has a different relationship with success. The Rocky movies are about opportunity and success, so we just started there. If you look at every beat, macro and micro, it all comes down to [that] nuance: [his] Blackness.”

  27. First of all, I am humbled and grateful that you would care enough to specifically share this with me and I mean that. THANK YOU IN ALL CAPS! Secondly, this is a good and eye-opening interview, and I appreciate the perspective that it adds.

    Still and all, I have a lot of difficulty with the race reductionism and identitarian deference that attends this entire discourse. My thinking here is most informed by the perspectives of black socialists, like Toure Reed and Brianha Joy Gray and a white socialist named Matt Bruening. And I’m not even a socialist (more social democrat ,maybe).

    Identitarian Deference Continues to Roil Liberalism

    Seven years ago, I coined the term “identitarian deference” (ID) to describe the idea that “privileged individuals should defer to the…

    Beware the Race Reductionist

    In the debates over the proper role of identity politics, efforts to use identity to derail class-based projects have been widely overlooked.

    Toward Freedom by Toure Reed: 9781786634382 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

    “The most brilliant historian of the black freedom movement” reveals how simplistic views of racism and white supremacy fail to address racial inequality—and offers a roadmap for a more...

    In short, here are my views on the matter:
    1. Black people have definitely undergone and continue to undergo serious oppression, which is bad and wrong.
    2. This is all the more reason for a film like this to offer some coherent perspective on all forms of wealth and power privilege (as opposed to “He’s black, so it’s fine.”)
    3. Black entertainers are a skewed sub-sample of Black Americans who are not obviously well-positioned to speak on behalf of some mythically homogeneous black perspective or experience. Mary-Ann Creed arguably has more in common with Melinda Gates than with the modal Black American woman of her age, though this debatable. The point is that I oppose race reductionism and essentialism of both the conservative and the progressive varieties.
    4. I stand by my comments about the corrupting effects of wealth and my critique of this film’s failure to offer any serious critique. I think it’s a real problem that is not readily solved by some variation on “But he’s Black, you guys.”

    As an aside, I was super discouraged and confirmed in my suspicions by what MBJ says here (and now a little more sympathetic to Sly even!), which I think speaks to my thesis that Adonis’s views on wealth are a stand-in for MBJ’s. I remain on the side of middle- and low-income people and remain not particularly sympathetic to people trying to parlay IP and vertical integrations and whatever the fuck else this goofball is talking about.


    I apologize that this is not a more congenial response — I feel that it comes across as dick-ish, and I really don’t want it to, but I feel very passionate and raw emotions about this shit, and I honestly don’t know any other way to express my feelings. I know we have moved apart as this aspect of the culture wars has heated up, but I appreciate you not excommunicating me from the Vern-verse. And it really does mean a lot to me that you would try to engage on this topic in good faith, as I believe you have here. I stand with you in opposition to racism and Republicanism and other bad isms, even as I understand some of these issues differently. I resolve to try to keep learning and growing here.

    And I will still buy this fucking movie when it comes out. Damnit!

  28. I mean, I agree with you, I love movies that glamourize authenticity over wealth, I love Rocky boxing in the meat locker, I love Dame working out in his little apartment, I love movies that show the wealthy as assholes. It reflects my world view. But I think you’re being reductive if you’re calling the interview reductive. Whatever that editorial says, I’m not gonna question a Black man describing his view of Blackness! Of course he’s not saying Adonis represents all Black people, he’s saying that Adonis’s experiences (as well as his own, and Jordan’s), are different from Rocky’s and make the story and their attitudes different, which is what makes the story worth telling.

    Rocky came from poverty but doesn’t mind giving up his riches to be more real – it’s not as simple for Creed because he feels a responsibility to use his success and privilege to help the other people who came up with him or share his background. And he feels tremendous guilt about his success. Whether or not you think cultural differences exist I think this is an understandable attitude for Adonis to have. It’s obviously personal to Jordan and the Cooglers, and that’s what I want out of a ROCKY/CREED movie. Also, it’s not their responsibility to tackle the evils of capitalism in addition to the very powerful and moving human story that they wanted to tell within this world. If they ever decide that’s a topic they’re interested in I’m sure they will do a great job, though.

  29. And come to think of it I’m not sure I followed how you got from CREED III to the failures of liberalism, but I know I have my own preoccupations that I tie to everything so I’m not judging.

  30. Once again, I appreciate your charity in the discussion while holding your ground in terms of what you see here. And I agree that there is a there there as far as these guys’ need to make it their own story and to own and inject their concerns and views and experiences as black men. Truly. I think there was something really quite beautiful in how Ryan Coogler approached that in Rocky, and it was cool the way he honored Rocky without needing Adonis to be Rocky. I think Coogler nailed it. And I think there is something really powerful in there with the racial and class and relational dynamics between Adonis and Dame in this film, where there is guilt and conflict of all of these forms — it is racially tinged, class tinged, and relationally tinged. There’s some serious black tragic opera shit going on there. Lot’s of potential to mine. So, I really want to be careful here, because I *do* expect that black auteurs will want to weave their experiences of blackness into their art, and in general I think the art will be better for it (certainly would be worse if a person tried to suppress or shear it off). I don’t need or want Adonis to be “black Rocky,” because we already have a Rocky. Finally, I get that there is a symbolic power here where Adonis is this whole filmmaking team’s way of saying to everyone — including and especially black fans and kids — “Yo, I did it, this guy here did it, WE can do it, YOU can do it. Hope. Persevere. Fight.” That is an extremely important message for MBJ to be carrying forward. And there is a definite power in the way he is processing the drama with Adonis and Dame, and there are all kinds of undercurrents and subtexts that can be pursued, such as the survivor guilt of making it (whatever “it” milestone we happen to be talking about) and knowing others got caught up one way or another and didn’t make it. This kind of survivor’s guilt is at the heart of a film like US, it’s definitely a major subtext here, and I see that.

    The problems I have with the film are still the problems I have with the film, because, in the end, what I perhaps unrealistically want is for Adonis to renounce the more opulent aspects of the wealth to embrace modesty and simplicity. Yes, create opportunities for others where you can as much as you can, but stay grounded. This film really goes the other direction I feel, and ultimately sends the wrong message about what the American dream really is.

    As for how I got from CREED to the failures of neoliberalism, I think it’s just basic Bernie shit. I feel this film essentially validates what I would call the Jay-Z narrative that the problem with our society is a lack of opportunities for black entrepreneurs or that we need more black millionaires and billionaires or that people like Dame need to stop being bitter crabs-in-the-bucket haters. That the solution to black poverty is a kind of folk hustle capitalism that at its root is almost always a scame. Whereas I think the problem is that our society is built to protect and entrench wealth of those who inherit, scam, bully, or luck their way into; and the solution is a multi-racial multi-class coalition to address that through a much more robust social welfare state, universal healthcare, more effective job training, unions, and material progressive measures.

    I will say, in MBJ et al.’s defense, Stallone and Arnold and all these guys have set the template for the myth that anyone who works hard enough can do anything (and that “no good lazy bum” Paulie is the original hater who just should’ve hustled harder).

    Once again, thank you for the charitable and constructive conversation and for your patience with my rants.

  31. Corrections. I meant

    “how Coogler approached that in CREED I” (not “Rocky”)
    “scam” (not “scame”)

  32. Well, I’m with you, if Adonis went that way in the future I would love it.

  33. Thanks Vern! This was an encouraging way to air our issues and find some common ground. And I hope this isn’t the last we see of Dame! I appreciate the dialogue.

  34. SPOILERS, probably:

    Saw this in my local theater, in sub-optimal conditions: they seemed to project it in the wrong aspect ratio (sides were cut off), the sound was way too loud, the house lights came on for a while during one of the more emotional scenes, and I really had to pee during the second half. So I could definitely benefit from watching it again with no distractions. However, I’d say overall it was pretty good. Still not as strong as the first CREED, but with more style and maybe more substance than CREED II. Love the anime influence Jordan brings in, in terms of the fights but also the overall navigation of the story. Warrior brothers-from-other-mothers who are drawn inexorably to a mythological and metaphysical battle.

    Tone-wise, it feels edgier than the other CREEDs, but goes to less dark places than I was expecting. Regardless, there are a lot of layers to the onion here! Power, responsibility, guilt, trauma, dark mirror images of the hero, etc. Jonathan Majors, is excellent, and I love a lot of what the story does with his character. Definitely in the Coogler school of antagonists who you can empathize with, and who have a good ideological point to make, even if their methods are unsound. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop or for some twist to happen– does Dame pull a gun on Adonis or hurt someone close to him? Does he show up to the house and want to keep the fight going outside the ring? Is there an extra revelation from their shared past that will show how he’s more evil than we thought? They don’t go in those directions, choosing instead to bring the brothers together at the end. It felt a little too easy, but it also has me itching for a DIAMOND DAME spin-off. Or at least put in in CREED IV as a kind of Paulie-meets-Vegeta figure. (This series needs a Paulie. Donnie needs a friend who’s just some jamoke.) I like that the movie kept me on my toes until the end, though. I honestly thought they might end up in a draw, or Adonis would lay down and lose in the count to let his old friend live his dream.

    My bladder was happy the movie was so short, but my brain felt it seemed rushed in the last act. I feel we skipped a few beats. I would’ve liked to spend more time with Mama Creed or in the aftermath of what happens with her. And I don’t think we got a completion to Amara’s arc here. I would’ve also liked more with Bianca and her own story, some kind of capper on where she’s at in her life now. Heck, I would’ve taken a slightly longer training montage. Something to help the pace in the back half. (I did clap when Drago Jr showed up as a sparring partner.)

    I also missed Ludwig’s score. I knew there’d be no Rocky theme, but there’s barely a Creed theme.

    Anyway, here’s my idea for CREED IV: It’s mentioned in passing in III, but let’s finally dive into Adonis’s relationship, or lack thereof, with Apollo’s other kids. Maybe they’re fighting over inheritance? Meanwhile, we also don’t know too much about the Johnson side of the family. Could he have another half-sibling or cousin out there, maybe one who is an MMA fighter and/or YouTube celebrity (Conor McGregor meets Jake Paul type) who wants to fight Adonis in an exhibition match for a big payday? And so we can explore how Donnie feels out of place in both the Creed and Johnson families. And also he’s bored or depressed and would take the chance to get back in the ring and do what he loves, despite the consequences. And maybe we could mirror that with a story for Bianca. Maybe her hearing has gotten worse but she wants to go on stage one more time as well, even if it has negative repercussions for her.

    Then by CREED V we will have let enough time pass for Adonis to train an adult Amara in professional fighting.

  35. Universal★Rundle

    April 7th, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    Vern, thanks as always for some of the best movie reviews online, and one of the best comment sections.

    I finally caught this last night, and I kept thinking about your conversation with Skani and Kaplan – CREED III dealing with survivor’s guilt and “the African American male psyche in 2023” and the different relationship between Blackness and success, etc. If anyone reads my comment so late, I thought I’d throw in one more way of looking at Adonis and Dame, that no-one’s mentioned explicitly: It hit me that you can watch CREED III not just as two men with a complex history, but as one man reckoning with an alternate version of himself. Just above, Bill Reed mentioned one of its layers being “dark mirror images of the hero”: When Adonis and Dame are sparring in mirrors and in so many ways, I felt like Dame WAS Adonis, if the die had just rolled a different way one night, and in that sense Dame is as much an idea as a character. When Wood Harris’s final ringside speech is to “Let go of the past,” to me that wasn’t just weak sauce about not feeling guilty, it was telling Adonis to exorcise this part of himself at last – to TKO the unimaginable guilt and bitterness and rage that he carries, embodied in Dame. That other metaphorical take on them helped me go with it when the fight went to that psychological plane, and it made Dame’s sudden forgiveness at the end more understandable: On one level it ended literally as “a friend talking to a friend,” and on another, it ended as Adonis talking to himself – he really had just beaten the burden that his history had on him, so of course Dame was suddenly done being a wrathful motherfucker, and he was finally able to say and hear that neither of their possible futures could have been any kid’s fault.

    I thought the movie was way more interested in that raw emotional emancipation than it was about wealth specifically, so I get why its politics leave some people wanting more. (And hell, if we stand a chance of achieving better politics through that shining multi-racial multi-class coalition, we’re all going to need pretty big transformational reckonings too … For some people, an Adonis-beating-Dame moment might just be an excuse to get rich forever, but it’s equally necessary for anyone who’s going to reject the false choices around us, and create real opportunities while staying grounded in a way Rocky would approve of.)

  36. Never too late to get in on the CREED convo! Although I had a very different reaction to the film and some of the specific elements, I’m glad you dug it. Dame is definitely Donnie’s shadow, among other things (an older bro figure, a “ones left behind” stand-in). My problem is that I find him more compelling and enjoyable than Donnie at all times, even though his character turns are frequently abrupt and arbitrary, including and especially in that final exchange.

  37. Universal★Rundle

    April 8th, 2023 at 2:00 am

    Yeah! Adonis felt like he’d gotten boring too… That’s a real question about where you take a super-perfect character like that – must make life suck, I wouldn’t know?

  38. Yeah, until now I have resisted the temptation to call Donnie a “Mary Sue,” but that is exactly what he is in this film, which makes him a boring-ass, unrelatable character. The film tries to shake his Mr. Wonderful vibe in the middle with its retconny attempt to make Dame’s arrest some kind of skeleton in Donnie’s closet, but it’s very half-assed and non-committal about the whole thing. Mary-Anne, Bianca, and Duke each in their own way steps up to insist that Donnie didn’t do anything too egregious vis a vis Dame. SPOILERS …and even Dame himself confirms this at the end. In so many words, “Yo, man, it wasn’t your fault.” So what is the actual conflict here? What is the lesson? At their heart, these films are saturated with moralism and are tales of character and virtue. What is the character growth, what is the lesson learned? This film’s central thesis seems to be that Donnie is awesome and has to learn to accept that he is awesome and that he deserves his awesomeness. Good for him, but that’s not real drama or character growth, and as I’ve said elsewhere, this film’s class politics are false and gross. My bad, I’m back on my bullshit again, all take my meds, I promise.

  39. Shifting tempo a moment, I think there’s something maybe overdefensive about the idea that Rocky has to be left out in order for Donny to ‘be his own man.’ It just occurs to me that Obi-Wan was in Return of the Jedi, Mister Miyagi was in Karate Kid 3, Morpheus was in The Matrix Revolutions, Dumbledore was in whichever Harry Potter movie was the third one… I don’t know enough about the behind-the-scenes stuff in order to render a judgment on that, but speaking strictly in a dead author way, they needed at least one scene of Rocky showing up, especially when they’re characterizing Damian as a Mirror Universe Rocky.

    And on a lighter note, they definitely needed Stallone to come up with a name for the villain. Damian/Dame Anderson is at least an attempt (Damian because he’s evil, Dame because he feels emasculated?), but it’s like watching someone cover Prince. You just want to see the master work. Stallone would name him something like… Doug “the Ditch” Diggory and we’d all be blown out of our seats.

  40. I don’t think Adonis needed to be away from his mentor to “be his own man,” but I do think that not having Rocky in this movie had the (maybe accidental) result of proving the series could stand on its own without nostalgia. Not that nostalgia were holding the other two back, but this shows that the character and the spirit are solid even without many direct references to another era and body of work we’re already attached to.

    Also… would KARATE KID 3 have worked as well as CREED III without Miyagi? I’m not sure it would. Though Terry Silver might be enough.

  41. Well, on the one hand, Karate Kid 3 was dependent on Miyagi still imparting lessons to Daniel-san, but on the other hand, that movie really *shouldn’t* have been a soft reboot (in the modern parlance) of the first Karate Kid. I remember the trailer promising that Danny was going to turn on Miyagi and be his own man, but then the movie’s plot has him come crawling back to Miyagi and going right back to training montages, which is only slightly better than a hypothetical threequel where Miyagi just disappears between movies.

    I kinda thought it would be interesting to see a Creed story where Rocky and Donny have naturally grown apart, but Rocky begins training a young up-and-comer, who finds himself in opposition to Donny as he climbs the ranks of the boxing world. I suppose that might give Rocky too much focus in someone else’s movie, but I think it’d make for a good conflict.

  42. I definitely see how the story here looks like Adonis has to learn to stop worrying and keep being awesome, though I don’t think that’s how it was intended. From interviews, it sounds like it’s about a type of survivor’s guilt that comes with black success, which MBJ and the Cooglers personally identify with and wanted to explore. For every successful black man, there are hundreds more left behind, defeated by the system, etc. So Damian is an example of that. And they literalize the guilt by having him and Donnie diverge on two distinct paths from the same incident. Adonis has a Spider-Man kind of responsibility for Damian. And Damian isn’t wrong– Rocky and Adonis got their million-to-one shots, so why not him? Plus, Adonis is a nepo baby. Every installment of the CREED series has been about Donnie dealing with insecurity and finding self-actualization, his own worth as a man, outside Apollo’s shadow, or Rocky’s, or Drago’s, and now, even his own past mistakes.

    I don’t know if the story 100% sticks the landing on those themes, but they’re definitely interesting.

  43. Right, but all of that is intention. This isn’t a press junket where Tessa Thompson or MBJ explaining to me what is great, special, or important about this film is something that matters. The movie is not on the debate team or applying to graduate school, it’s giving me 120 minutes of sound, image, and story. You don’t convince me you’re a great pitcher by explaining how much time you spend throwing or your philosophy of pitching. You do it by striking out batters. This film is cluttered, distractible, pandering, superficial, and lacking in sincere emotional resonance. It trades on IMPORTANT THEMES in a vacuous, cynical fashion, pulling its proverbial punches. Of all the stupid shit this film gives us, we never see Dame’s actual descent into bitterness over the course of 20 years in prison. Think about that. We get a bunch of mediocre and not even terribly narratively illuminating flash-back, but none of it actually takes us into the most central, emotionally potent part of this retconny “looks like Donnie still has secrets and feels from his past” backstory. I’ve cut the five additional paragraphs of foaming at the mouth about that completely pointless and embarrassingly soap opera-level death scene, as well as other classic hits like, “In what possible world does a character like Lil Duke say ‘Let got of the past and step into what is.'”, or “Why does Bianca immediately and with a vacant stare agree with Donnie that he should fight Dame?” I’m saving those for the special boxed set.

  44. Even if you don’t want to go that deep because fools would be like “it’s a Rocky movie” robbing Dame of any further exploration even makes Creed look like a fool. Like why would the retired championship fighter want to even get back in the ring against someone with a 1-0 record? It felt really stupid. At the least give us a Diamond Dame Clubber Lang like montage where we see him knock some motherfuckers out.

  45. There’s definitely something to that, but I just feel like this film teases that Dame is going to be this more complicated, richer, more sympathetic villain. And then it invests in that somewhat for the first 30-40 minutes, but once Dame starts pressuring Donnie for the title shot, he gets weird, and his behavior starts to seem increasingly random and arbitrary, including and especially at the very end. That Majors almost sells it tells you what a singular talent he is (whatever his personal bullshit), but his behavior in the second half is too arch, too heel to make sense in light of the rest of the film (or for the ending to make sense in light of the arch/heel period). Maybe with 20 extra minutes of Dame-focused connective tissue it could’ve.


    I stand by my criticisms, but this film improves on a second viewing. As someone who likes ROCKY V, this is simply a much better and better made film than ROCKY V, despite its obvious flaws, so, it’s time to let bygones be bygones and welcome this film into the fold. Damian is a great villain. Donnie still kind of sucks as a protagonist, the core conflict is still muddled and stupid and promoting of a perverse/inverted class consciousness, and all the Mary-Anne stuff remains completely cringe, but Majors as Damian is great enough to make up for it.

    Also, am I alone or is Dame’s fighting style weird as shit (and mostly unsatisfying to watch). He’s a super cool verbal and dramatic antagonist, and he’s diesel as all hell, but he fights like such a weirdo, like his arms are insect wings or something. I like that it’s weird, but it’s a missed opportunity for him to seem actually tough and devastating. This film never really convinces me that Dame has Donnie in legitimate trouble, which is … legitimate trouble. The sparring with Drago only adds to the weirdness — Drago is so much more obviously the superior and more devastating foe, it’s not even close. Weird.

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