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Creed III (2023) - Review

"Creed III" takes some time to get rolling. It uses flashbacks to 2002, Los Angeles, to establish the shared past of the movie's final rivals. As a young teen, Adonis "Donnie" Creed is seen sneaking out of his room. He goes to watch his big brother figure, Damian "Dame" Anderson, dominating in grudge matches. On the way home one night, a physical altercation decides their futures. With Adonis moving on to glory and Damian ending up serving an 18-year prison sentence. The movie jumps forward 15 years in a well-timed, gorgeously placed match cut. It shows us that Donnie now has the boxing career that Dame always imagined. Another jump to the present day reveals that Adonis has left the ring and is now a successful businessman.

He skillfully depicts the level of riches that Adonis enjoys with his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their deaf daughter, Amara. Jordan's attention to detail is on full show. Adonis's new, refined character is immediately apparent. Thanks to the production designer Jahmin Assa's basic elegance and the costume designer Lizz Wolf's creamy neutrals.

Singer-songwriter Bianca is writing songs and collaborating with up-and-coming artists as a producer. Adonis is forming the next generation of fighters as a behind-the-scenes power at his own Delphi Boxing Academy. They claim to be happy, but there is an intriguing tension between them. It is obvious that they both still yearn for the attention that formerly defined and fed them. Young Davis-Kent, a deaf actor, emerges brightly in her first major role, more than holding her own against veteran performers with her sparkly presence and timing. Thompson adds earthiness and tenderness to this overwhelmingly male film. As Mary-Anne, the mother of Adonis, Phylicia Rashad also makes a triumphant return.

But when Dame shows up, who has become much tougher while incarcerated and is now seeking the boxing glory he feels is rightfully his, their trance is interrupted. Given the prominent villainous roles both actors have played inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is a certain nerdy joy in viewing the spectacle of Kang vs. Killmonger. Majors is fantastic as usual. He lends a profoundly unnerving energy to the part; Dame is actually rather combustible below his outward appearance of serenity. Even if he isn't always visibly enraged, his intimidating physicality nevertheless makes him terrifying since he is constantly monitoring, plotting, and fuming.

Jordan, the filmmaker, uses a seemingly straightforward sequence in which Adonis and Damian share an unpleasant reunion supper to tell a whole, deep story. They achieve this in collaboration with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, editors Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson, and other key players. Close-ups, tempo, and the choice to linger on an actor's face for one or two extra beats than necessary all add so much meaning and subtext to a scene. The interaction is potent because of what it doesn't show-what these characters purposefully withhold from us but which we yet sense.

But "Creed III" also provides the audience with numerous training montages, which is what they want. Even "Rocky" had a montage, they sing in "Team America: Global Police." The screenplay from Keenan Coogler (Ryan's brother) and Zach Baylin ("King Richard") hits all the uplifting beats you'd expect but tosses in some clever new ones as well once it becomes clear that Donnie must get back in shape to compete against Dame for the championship-at Dodger Stadium, of all places, a truly inspired location that's so extremely L.A. So, running is possible in the streets, on the beach, and up hills. Punching and sparring are present. Yet there was also the image of Adonis using his pectorals alone to tow a real airplane.

Creed III is playing in theatres now.