‘Creed III’ delivers knockout punch with critics and audiences: It’s a ‘precision uppercut of sports-movie satisfaction’

On March 3, 2023, Michael B. Jordan‘s spinoff franchise from “Rocky” punched its way back to the big screen with “Creed III.” After dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed (Jordan) has been thriving in both his career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian (Jonathan Majors), resurfaces after serving a long sentence in prison, he is eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring. The face off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian — a fighter who has nothing to lose.

An impressive ensemble cast is filled out by Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Florian Munteanu and Wood Harris. With a critics score of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes (and an even more impressive 96% audience score), the consensus reads, “Stepping out from Rocky Balboa’s iconic shadow at last, the Creed franchise reasserts its champion status thanks to star Michael B. Jordan’s punchy direction and a nuanced heel turn by Jonathan Majors.”

Jordan makes his directorial debut in the blockbuster that raked in nearly $60 million at the box office its opening weekend. Read our review roundup below.

SEE Box office: ‘Creed III’ knocks out the biggest three-day opening for the franchise with $58.7 million

Matt Maytum of Total Film writes, “Are there any films as contagious as boxing movies? If you’ve skipped out of the last two ‘Creed’ movies bobbing, weaving and jabbing the air, ‘Creed III’ will hit like a precision uppercut of sports-movie satisfaction.” He adds, “While Jordan might be just beginning this phase of his career, ‘Creed III’ finds Adonis Creed (Jordan) nearing the end of his time as a professional boxer. Having conquered the sporting world, undisputed heavyweight champ Adonis lives in a luxury mansion in LA with wife Bianca (Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). As he prepares to leave the ring to step back from the sport, a figure from his past re-emerges, meaning that retirement might not be quite so imminent…But none of this would matter a great deal if ‘Creed III’ didn’t hit the spot with the fight scenes. Jordan and his collaborators find visually inventive ways to bring new life to the matches, without sacrificing any of their bruising intensity. Throw in the obligatory workout montage (parachute-running! Climbing-rope pull-ups! Treepunching?!) to get the blood pumping further, and the overall effect is hard to resist. Now, if that doesn’t make you want to punch the air…” 

Emmanuel Noisette of The Movie Blog says, “Michael B. Jordan gave a wonderful, well-balanced performance as Adonis Creed. I appreciated how he was able to let himself freely explore the emotional depths of his character in a believable way. Jordan’s acting was certainly aided by the talented supporting cast. Tessa Thompson was a delight, and her chemistry with Jordan felt authentic. Phylicia Rashad acted so well in a particular scene that it was inevitable to feel my eyes get a little watery. One of my favorite performances was probably from Wood Harris, who played Duke. Whenever he spoke, he felt like the most relatable character for audiences. Majors played the perfect antagonist that, at times, you almost wanted to root for and not against.” 

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Meredith Loftus of Next Best Picture notes, “The question of legacy and forging your own path has been a central theme of the’Creed’ films, and Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) discovers the answer to this in ‘Creed III.’ After building upon the legacies of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), what will Adonis Creed’s legacy be once he hangs up the gloves?” As a director, Jordan proves to be a natural. “Morgenthau and Jordan make the creative decision to shoot Damian and Donnie’s climactic fight in a way unlike we’ve seen in the previous ‘Creed’ films that amps up the story’s emotional stakes.” Loftus adds, “What makes up for the lack of Rocky is Jonathan Majors. Continuing his hot 2023 from ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ (which will continue later this year with ‘Magazine Dreams’) Majors immerses himself in the character of Damian.”

Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly says, “If there is a sweet science to sports movies, it’s simplicity. Formula isn’t just a selling point, it’s what we came for: Give us long odds and underdogs, adversity and triumph; let the details sweat the rest. Jordan’s approach here is broader and essentially blood-simple, though still kinetic in its own way: His Donnie is an old champ now, a happily settled family man going out on top in his mid-thirties with his record intact. He still lives in a white-washed modernist villa overlooking Los Angeles with his singer-songwriter wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their young hear-impaired daughter (Mila Davis-Kent), with whom he sweetly banters in ASL; his late father’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), drops by regularly for Merlot and moral support…Majors, already seemingly inescapable this year, brings a wounded menace that suggests the many sedimentary layers of fury and grief underneath; he’s less some sneering Iron Curtain meathead á la Rocky villains of yore than a lost soul.” 

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