Having retired from professional boxing, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is now moving into fight promotion while his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) continue to thrive. However, when childhood friend and boxing prodigy Dame Anderson (Jonathan Majors) is released from jail following a violent incident involving him years earlier, Creed must face his past and reckon with his guilt in Anderson's downfall...
As much as any sports movie follows a specific formula, 'Creed' and its sequels have excelled in taking a formula and teasing out some of the cliches and tropes to create something fresh. The first 'Creed' inverted the underdog story, pitching Adonis Creed, not as a poor schmoe destined to be the greatest, but as someone burdened with legacy and struggling to define themselves beyond its reach. The second 'Creed' dealt with Apollo Creed's violent death at the hands of Ivan Drago. In 'Creed III', however, there's little in the way of deviation. In pretty straight terms, it's a rework of 'Rocky III' and 'Rocky V', wherein the champion is forced to lace up his gloves in order to deal with his past and prove to himself that he's still got what it takes.
As a director, Michael B. Jordan clearly has a unique vision and his anime-inspired fight sequences really pop out of the screen in a way that previous fight sequences in the 'Rocky' series or any other boxing movie ever have. In particular, the final climactic fight between Dame Anderson and Adonis Creed turns certain metaphors literal, making for something unique. Jordan clearly has skill behind the camera and could make something really special with a stronger script than what he's working with here.
Jonathan Majors, for his part, is more than capable of soaking up the screen with his physical presence. He looks threatening and charged in every scene with Jordan, practically towering over him in more than a few of them, and we really get the sense that he's not just a challenger to Creed, but almost what might have been. That's the crux of 'Creed III', what might have happened had he not walked his own path, but where the movie falters is how it falls back into easy storytelling and worn-out beats to get there.
Where 'Creed III' excels and what gives it that impact is the fight sequences. Jordan, who has two of these movies under his belt as well as a number of blockbusters such as 'Black Panther' and 'Without Remorse', knows exactly how to get the most out of these sequences and direct them in such a way as to keep both the emotional throughline and make it look cool and exciting. Yet, for all of this, the scenes around them never quite have the same impact and the script by Zach Baylin of 'King Richard' fame and Keenan Coogler is never strong enough to match Jordan's creative ambitions.
Still, 'Creed III' is reliably entertaining and provides a satisfying if conventional conclusion to the trilogy.