Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) may have started at the bottom, but now he’s found the top. With no more mountains to climb, the 30-something heavyweight boxing champ retires to spend time with wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) in their modernist spread high in the Hollywood Hills while training the next generation of fighters at his Los Angeles gym.

Would that it were so simple. Conflict rears its head in the form of Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), an old friend recently released from jail. Eighteen years ago, Damian was an up-and-coming boxer. Then an incident involving a fight, a gun, and the cops left Damian behind bars and Creed free to pursue his dreams. Now Damian wants out and his shot at the title, his chance at glory, his chance at Creed’s life.

Directed by Jordan, Creed III is obsessed with the past. So is this cycle of the franchise. While the first five Rocky films dealt with issues as they cropped up, the sixth installment—2006’s Rocky Balboa—was concerned with recapturing past glories while reconciling old conflicts. The subsequent Creed movies took that conceit and ran with it. In some ways, this impetus for reconciliation provides catharsis and dimension. In other ways, it makes this world feel small. And despite the lavish sets, the expansive designs, and the dramatic fights, Creed III feels narrow. 

The characterizations add a nice touch. Struggling with progressive hearing loss, Bianca is more composer/producer than singer and has reconciled that her future in music means watching others perform her songs. Her change in career path, and the maturity of her acceptance, should guide Creed’s shift from man in the ring to behind the scenes, but it doesn’t. Creed III likes a man of action, which is why a movie that starts as a domestic drama becomes the story of two men who have a lot of issues to sort through.

But instead of talking about it, they’ll just fight. One of the disappointments of Creed III is that for all its interest in setting up a world where characters must reconcile with words and humility, the narrative still comes down to a showdown of two men in a ring beating the snot out of each other. That fight, set in Dodger Stadium and billed as the Battle of Los Angeles, is one of the most visually interesting aspects of the movie. But it’s more interesting than it is thrilling. Creed III is a sluggish story that telegraphs where it’s headed to the point that even the revelations feel inevitable.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Creed III (2023)
Directed by Michael B. Jordan
Screenplay by Keenan Coogler, Zach Baylin
Story by Ryan Coogler, Keenan Coogler, Zach Baylin
Produced by William Chartoff, Ryan Coogler, Jonathan Glickman, Michael B. Jordan, Elizabeth Rapos, Sylvester Stallon, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Mila Davis-Kent, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad
MGM, Rated PG-13, Running time 116 minutes, Opens March 3, 2023