Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" films have had a profound impact on me. I have clear memories of watching Rocky Balboa standing tall after overcoming the odds against Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago. Those cinematic achievements were one of the many motion pictures that I discovered as a child while scouring my parents' VHS collection.
Stallone sought a different avenue with exploring different characters from his story. In 2015, the viewing audience was introduced to the son of Apollo Creed from the film aptly titled "Creed," which focused on the struggling Adonis Creed seeking to cement his own legacy by stepping out of the shadow of his legendary father. It became an unexpected critic and box office success, followed by a sequel in 2018 and another here in the year 2023.
"Creed III" sees the return of Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson reprising their roles from the previous films. In his directorial debut, Jordan was tasked with continuing the emotionally intense journey of Adonis, focusing on his issues with self-doubt. Unexpectedly he's faced with a familiar ghost from the tortured past he left behind and forgot about. Actor Jonathan Majors portrays Creed's next obstacle as boxing prodigy Damian Anderson, a recently released prisoner seeking to claim glory.
Considering this is the ninth film in the "Rocky" franchise and despite the information being well known prior to the release of the film, the very notion that Stallone - while credited as a producer - does not appear in any capacity as Rocky Balboa is impossible to fathom. Needless to say, his absence is noticeable. While it doesn't hinder it in a manner that sends the story into unwatchable territory, not seeing Stallone on screen removes the initial charm, magic and emotionality that always manages to connect with the audience, particularly since anyone familiar with the character readily admits that he holds a special place within their heart and soul. Even with the glaring omission, Jordan steps up to the plate in overseeing a cinematic tale that has spanned 47 years with the first "Rocky" released in 1976. He manages to take an iconic, cherished story - by paying respect to the past and adding his own unique style - and simply make it his own.
An admitted Japanese animation aficionado, Jordan incorporates his passion for anime by using various camera techniques, certain color schemes and references during the boxing sequences that are clearly inspired by "Dragon Ball Z," "Naruto," "Demon Slayer" and "My Hero Academia." The only way to fully grasp what I am articulating is to watch a few "Dragon Ball Z" episodes and then watch the film.
While all involved are at the top of their acting game, once again, Majors continues to prove that he's absolutely going to become a legend. He brings raw, intense and intimidating energy as Damian Anderson. His character reminds me of a combination between Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. There's a specific level of intensity he captures where he intimidates an individual with silence, few words or that unexpected explosion of rage that can only be described as almost animalistic. He nails the performance.
Jordan portrays the conflicted boxing athlete seeking validation and continuing to emerge out of the shadow of his father, Apollo Creed, and Rocky Balboa. There are significant heartwarming, emotional and powerfully raw scenes that drive the story into organic territory that makes it darker and more serious.
While I did enjoy "Creed III" and find it a worthy addition to its trilogy, it's not without its flaws. Stallone's absence is prominent, and the character of Rocky is greatly missed; more of Damian's backstory would've been welcome, and quite honestly, I wouldn't mind a solo film focusing on the character of Damian with a returning Majors.
Having been spoiled by past "Rocky" stories with lengthy, brutal and intense boxing sequences, I want to see a return of the traditional boxing film formats that Stallone showcased in the first five "Rocky" films. Other than those minor grievances, "Creed III" is entertaining, exciting, motivating and emotional. I recommend this inspiring feature to all audiences. My final rating for "Creed III" is a solid 8/10. Be on the lookout for my review of "Scream VI" with its release this weekend.
Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To watch his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.
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