Creed III First Reviews: A Satisfying End, and Another Jonathan Majors Knockout

Critics say Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut hits hard, thanks to its dramatic foundation and imaginative fight sequences, even if Sylvester Stallone's absence looms over it.

by | February 24, 2023 | Comments


Continuing the Rocky franchise with its ninth installment, Creed III also rounds out the spin-off Creed trilogy, and critics are saying it’s one of the best movies in the whole series. The first round of reviews celebrates Michael B. Jordan’s return as Adonis Creed as he makes an accomplished debut in the director’s chair, and while Jonathan Majors is notably the highlight of the sequel, Creed III is also being championed for its fresh perspective and unique fight scenes. However, the lack of Sylvester Stallone has critics divided on whether he’s missed or not.

Here’s what critics are saying about Creed III:

Is Creed III another knockout?

Creed III is an absolute masterpiece of a movie.
– Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Creed is nothing short of a triumph.
– Patrick Cavanaugh,

Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut is triumphant.
– John Nguyen, Nerd Reactor

It’s a knockout and another terrific movie in a series full of them. I loved it.
– Alan Cerny,

How does it compare to the other Creed movies?

It’s a far more dynamic movie than the proficient but formulaic Creed II, even if it can’t match the soulful filmmaking bravura of the first Creed.
– Owen Gleiberman, Variety

While the series may never reach the lofty heights of the first Creed movie, it’s immensely satisfying to watch sequels made with real purpose and patience.
– Benjamin Lee, Guardian

The original bare-knuckle magic is not all there, but it’s also often better than the blunt-force melodrama of the last film.
– Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Rather than give audiences what they expect out of a third Creed film (Clubber Lang redux), Creed III goes smaller and more intimate without pulling a single punch.
– Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

It’s the first Creed movie where the emotional weight doesn’t stem from the original Rocky films.
– Siddhant Adlakha, Polygon

If these films have been about passing the torch, the third one finds both Michael B. Jordan and his character taking the torch and running with it.
– Clint Gage, IGN Movies

It’s the weakest of the Creed trilogy.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors in Creed III (2023)

(Photo by Eli Ade/©MGM)

Is the script worthy of the franchise?

The script from Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin makes great use of the groundwork laid before, enabling the film to move swiftly, landing the emotional beats within the new narrative conflict constructed.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

It’s basically the same premise as the dreaded Rocky V. But Creed III is surprisingly grounded, and frequently quiet and reflective.
– Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

The overall story works and all of its pertinent beats make sense, but the dialogue leans into melodramatic tropes, at times, and falls into ineffective formulas.
Patrick Cavanaugh,

The story is disappointing because it doesn’t fully commit to its themes.
Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

The narrative — the reason we keep watching Adonis fight in and out of the ring — lets us down.
– Lovia Gyarkye, Hollywood Reporter

Does it feel like more than just another boxing movie?

Creed III is arguably the first entry in the franchise in which boxing feels like an afterthought, where the audience… will become more intrigued by seeing how these characters and their lives unfold amidst the tension.
Patrick Cavanaugh,

Going back to its Rocky roots, this film is a drama first, and a boxing movie second.
– Emmanuel Noisette, The Movie Blog

What makes Creed III so refreshing is that it also scratches an itch many of us have for mid-budget adult drama and while it might be broad, IMAX entertainment, it still delivers the rare sight of big stars grappling with big emotions on a big screen.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

Creed III isn’t a story about boxing, it’s a story about family — both the ones that we’re born into and the ones that we discover along the way — and the sacrifices we make for the ones we love.
– Ross Bonaime, Collider

It’s a hostile-tormenter movie, like Cul-de-Sac or The Gift or the granddaddy of them all, the original 1962 Cape FearCreed III is a sports drama that feels like a thriller with an urgent conscience.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Michael B. Jordan in Creed III (2023)

(Photo by Eli Ade/©MGM)

How are the fight scenes?

They’re brutal and exciting to watch as well as thematically meaningful to the characters and the story… [with] an engrossing new visual dynamic.
Clint Gage, IGN Movies

Jordan uses the full power of IMAX to direct some glorious fight scenes.
Lovia Gyarkye, Hollywood Reporter

Jordan finds new ways to showcase the sport in ways that feel fresh to the franchise.
Patrick Cavanaugh,

Jordan brings a lot of anime influence into the fights, going for extreme close-ups and slow-motion… This movie delivers that in a way that isn’t exactly what you would expect.
– Jonathan Sim,

Jordan has said he was influenced by anime in making this film, and that can certainly be felt in the way he shoots these fights, the way these boxers move, and how Jordan shifts the perspective in stunning ways.
Ross Bonaime, Collider

I found myself absolutely locked into the fight sequences, not just because of the execution but due to buying in on the emotional aspects.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

The utilization of slow motion and close-up visuals, as well as the sound design, will make viewers feel like they are right there in the arena.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

How is Michael B. Jordan as a director?

As a director, he paces the movie well and stages the boxing matches with a brutal imaginative precision.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

As a director, Jordan crafts the visual dynamics between these two characters with a surprising assuredness.
– Robert Daniels, Inverse

Jordan imbues the spinoff/threequel with a cinematic zest the series has never seen before, expanding the visual language of the Hollywood boxing movie in remarkable ways.
Siddhant Adlakha, Polygon

It would have been easy for the first-time director to resort to what has been done before, but the creativity with which he shot this film pays off in the end.
– Brittany Witherspoon, Screen Rant

The way he imagines that final bout will likely divide some audiences, but this is clearly a man with a vision.
– Kate Erbland, IndieWire

This was a good start for Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut, but he still has a way to go in perfecting this craft.
Emmanuel Noisette, The Movie Blog

Michael B. Jordan on the set of Creed III (2023)

(Photo by Ser Baffo/©MGM)

What about his performance?

Jordan gives what may be his fullest performance yet as Adonis.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

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.
Emmanuel Noisette, The Movie Blog

Acting and directing simultaneously is no easy task, but Jordan knocks it out of the park, showing skill both in front of and behind the camera.
Jonathan Sim,

Directing and acting in the lead role is no easy task, but Jordan is able to give another powerful performance as Adonis Creed while also capturing strong performances from the cast.
John Nguyen, Nerd Reactor

Jordan delivers, though one could tell his energy was split between acting and directing duties.
Brittany Witherspoon, Screen Rant

His performance feels a tad subdued, especially alongside a powerhouse like Majors as Damian.
– Jeff Nelson, Showbiz Cheat Sheet

Is Jonathan Majors effective as Creed’s rival?

Robert Daniels, Inverse

Majors continues his streak of being the most interesting person on screen no matter what he’s in… [He] makes Dame one of the most original antagonists in the franchise.
Clint Gage, IGN Movies

He creates one of the Rocky series’ most compelling and nuanced characters through the way he carries himself.
Siddhant Adlakha, Polygon

Damian is one of the most fascinating and disturbing antagonists in the history of the Rocky and Creed series… Jonathan Majors introduces us to the character’s vulnerabilities and then shocks us with his power.
– William Bibbiani, The Wrap

The actor imbues Damian with refreshing complexity. In a lesser performer’s hands, the character would have remained a thinly drawn antagonist to Adonis, someone we’d root to be defeated.
Lovia Gyarkye, Hollywood Reporter

Just the way he carries himself, turns his head, is fascinating and delivers more impact than any physical punch he lands. What a treat it is to watch this superb actor soar in the very commercial movies he has only made better.
– Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute

While Majors does a phenomenal job with what he’s given… more time with Damian would have allowed for positioning his turn from an old friend to rival in a more salient way.
– Kate Sanchez, But Why Tho? A Geek Community

Jonathan Majors in Creed III (2023)

(Photo by Eli Ade/©MGM)

Is Sylvester Stallone’s absence an issue?

Creed III does not suffer for it. In fact, it’s because of his absence that Jordan is free to add his most interesting flare.
Clint Gage, IGN Movies

After eight installments with Stallone, his continued appearance in the series was more of a distraction from Creed’s story than a benefit.
Ross Bonaime, Collider

Stallone stepping away may have been the best thing for this franchise.
Alan Cerny,

As this is the first film without Rocky, it’s something that’s hard not to notice, especially in the more emotional moments of Adonis’s journey where Rocky would be a reliable support.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

There’s a scene in this movie where Adonis is at his lowest moment, has no one to turn to, and a nice pep talk from Adonis’s old pal Rocky would have been a nice moment.
– Mike Ryan, Uproxx

This film does not need Sylvester Stallone to succeed. However, because this is the third film in a spin-off trilogy part of the Rocky franchise, not having him there feels incomplete.
– Meredith Loftus, Next Best Picture

Will it leave us wanting more Creed?

I’m curious after this if we will see more Creed. I actually hope so.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

If Jordan continues working behind the camera, another pit stop or two with these characters and their story would be more than welcome.
Siddhant Adlakha, Polygon

If Creed III turns out to be the last Creed movie, it will prove to be a satisfying finale. But if not, it keeps the bar high.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

It could be a satisfying conclusion to Donnie’s story. It could also be the third of what might become five or six films that start to run together after a while.
Clint Gage, IGN Movies

Creed III proves the series need never end, so long as it keeps pushing forward.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap

I sure hope Creed doesn’t take the Rocky route and pump out sequel after sequel… If this is the final round for the Creed series, it’s a fitting, if predictable, end.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Creed III opens in theaters everywhere on March 3, 2023.

Thumbnail image by ©MGM

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