A Tale of Two Men Who Refuse to Go to Therapy: A Spoiler of Creed 3
In one scene in Creed 3, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) teaches his daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) the finer points of boxing. He tells her, “people think it’s about violence,” but clarifies that it’s not, that boxing is about control and precision, yadda yadda. But Adonis doesn’t practice what he preaches because the entire premise of the third installment of the Rocky spinoff is really all about Adonis Creed working off his deep-seated trauma inside the ring instead of on a psychologist’s couch.
The film opens with a flashback to Creed’s youth spent in the foster system before being adopted by Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), where he’s shown to assist a talented young boxer fight in an underground circuit. Fast forward to the present, and that blast from the past shows up in the form of ex-con Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors), who just got out of prison and wants to reconnect with his old friend, who’s now retired and enjoying the millions he’s amassed from a successful boxing career and his wife Bianca’s (Tessa Thompson) success as a musician and producer.
Creed has a beautiful house, a mansion in Los Angeles worthy of a Selling Sunset cameo, fitting for a champion and a pop star. His opulent lifestyle is intended to contrast with Damian’s luckless existence. His friend wants a shot, however, not a handout, so Adonis sets him up at his gym, Dephi Boxing Academy, where Damian works his way into a sparring slot against Adonis’ protege, Felix Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.), who’s up for a unified Heavyweight title defense.
Chavez’s challenger is assaulted at a rave and becomes unavailable to fight, so in a Hollywood twist that echoes the first Rocky, the promoters pick the unheralded Damian—whose sole claim to fame is a junior Golden Gloves award he won as a teenager—to challenge for the Heavyweight crown. It’s asinine and insulting to the sport, but the Rocky franchise was never really about boxing, anyway. So Diamond Dame gets a shot at two Heavyweight belts after toiling a few months in the very same gym that Chavez works out at, which doesn’t sound shady at all.
Predictably, Damian wins and reveals his true colors, which is amazing because it turns out he can really act. He transforms from a meek, soft-spoken, ex-con looking to reform himself into a brash and arrogant gangsta like a real con man, which makes no sense but ok. It turns out that he was playing Adonis the whole time, and what he really wanted was a title fight against his retired former best friend.
Dame calls Adonis out on live television because everyone knows that’s how championship fights are set up, so we move on to the third act after the required training montage and the two men face each other on the world’s biggest stage to work out their issues. Jordan, who debuts as director, flexes his creative muscles with a fresh take on the boxing sequence, which he interweaves with flashbacks and dreamlike sequences that hearken to the boys’ childhood in a foster home where they were routinely physically abused.
Basically, Adonis and Dame needed therapy. But rather than work out their traumas and unresolved issues with a therapist, they decide to beat each other up—basically, the violence Creed warned against—and televise it so they also earn millions of dollars in the process. Brilliant. Afterward, the two men shake hands and become friends again as if nothing happened, which is absolutely the way dudes fix their problems.
Creed 3 breaks free from Rocky franchise, with its own mythology and cast of characters; and with a boxing prodigy in Amara, it’s also all set to have potential sequels with a female boxer putting on the gloves. Michael B. Jordan is a more than capable director, elevating fight sequences with creative slow-motion shots and fully fleshing out the world of Creed. If you can look past the fact that the entire plot of the film hinges on two men refusing to get therapy, then it’s a serviceable, even fun movie.