Creed III: A Cypher Flicks review

By Daniel Paiz

Creed III: a Cypher Flicks review is here for this highly anticipated third movie, a movie that’s had its release date circled on the calendar for months! This third installment is the directorial debut for Michael B Jordan, and it’s a film where Jordan’s character Adonis Creed has everything to lose. Cypher Flicks first started in part because of Creed, as that film resonated in my head for what seemed like eons.

The journey the trilogy’s namesake has gone through is just like life: hard. There’s the internal struggle of accepting a family one didn’t know as a child in Creed. Follow that up with then possibly paying for the sins of his father in Creed II, with a dose of understanding what he’s fighting for. This third chapter brings the past back to the present front and center, this time with his best friend Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors). This childhood partner appears to have more than well-wishes for Creed, as Dame feels he’s watched what he thinks should’ve been his life unfold for Creed. To be fair, a few different decisions and the former amateur Golden Gloves champ isn’t entirely wrong.

Life goes in cycles, and the ups and downs over time drive our two characters of focus as their paths cross in more ways than one.

Everyone is fighting something, and it usually hurts

A tried-and-true phrase that surfaces every so often as a reminder and a warning of sorts is that hurt people hurt people. Place yourself in the shoes of Crenshaw’s top ranked amateur boxer, “Diamond” Dame Anderson. You and Donnie are working towards making the Olympics, winning gold, and then turning pro; better get through the golden gloves gauntlet first. A few mistakes and a chance encounter with a tormentor of sorts, and 18 years slowly squeak by, all the while watching what you expected your life to be playing out with the kid you stuck up for.

Prison is not really a place that provides many opportunities for rehabilitation. There are art programs, podcasts, organized athletics and more. However, the rate of those incarcerated returning to prison, known as recidivism, is terrible in the United States. Dame could have been one of those who kept returning, but his singular focus on his dreams seems to finally get him out. Regardless of age, those dreams kept him alive in a place that can take your soul, if not also your life. That rawness, that desire to fight, that tension from trauma (which Majors does a spectacular job of depicting) makes you as an audience member root for Dame. Every single person reading this has had trials and tribulations. No one goes unscathed, and until certain events happen that allow Dame to nearly reach his dream, as a viewer it’s easy to not see Dame as the bad guy.

18 years of prison will also make someone recently released have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Creed has unprocessed trauma too; after all, Dame and Donnie were in the same space for a few years. Adonis doesn’t work through that pain or guilt. The retired champ has a wonderful, strong partner (Tessa Thompson shines again as Bianca Creed), a daughter who has that fight in her (named Amara, wonderfully played by Mila Davis-Kent), and a doting yet waning mother (Phylicia Rashad 2024 Oscar campaign next year, prepare for it). Yet somehow, he still doesn’t know how to open up and share. Because there’s no more boxing for him, there’s even less opportunity to unburden himself.

Package all of that tension, all of that emotion, and all of that lashing out into the sport of boxing as well? That’s what makes this film feel like the best of the three films in the series thus far. Sports films rarely bottle all of this up and disperse it so well. Perhaps boxing really is the most mental of all sports out there. The jams in this film elevated moments as well.

Music Magic

War is not something that happens overnight. It takes preparation, calculating decisions, and strategy. J Cole, Dreamville, and Josesph Shirley did all of these things with respect to the original motion picture score, and the soundtrack. The walkout music is still devilishly unique in representing each fighter’s core character. Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) with the Día de los Muertos characters and that tune “Viene por Sangre” was perfect for the defending champ. Then there’s Dame’s walk out music for his title fight with Creed:

Nipsey Hussle’s “Last Time That I Checc’d” couldn’t have been a better choice for Dame, who hails from Crenshaw. Even at that moment where Dame feels so justified by slandering Creed, it was a special moment. The only other musical moments that rival the walkouts are the training montages. In particular, viewers get a Creed x Wakanda crossover of sorts:

If you caught the reference (Killmonger meets Creed moment for me), then that’s just one more bar that makes this interlude so good. The last cookie crumb of music worth noting is actually a scene that doesn’t really involve training or boxing at all. Reflecting back on it, it’s a moment before Dame truly shows who he is; but besides that, be on the lookout for Kehlani.

Final Count

Creed III does a great job of crafting a self-contained story of sorts out of tension and trauma. The past often comes back to greet people in unexpected ways, but what viewers witnessed was well done. The relationships between Creed and Bianca, Amara, and momma Mary-Anne are all crucial reminders of what he’s really fighting for. The importance of each of these ladies in this story cannot be undervalued, because without them, Creed likely makes bigger mistakes and things could’ve descended more than they did. These women also have their own agency as well, and are not secondary to the story, which is also important to note.

Amara, Bianca, and Mary-Anne all have their own trials, but like their male counterparts, these are not the only things defining these characters. Amara is deaf her entire life, but it’s not the main focus of her character; she signs ASL with her parents and it’s not depicted as a big deal. Their home reflects this as well with the glass floors and light placements. Bianca, who has been hard of hearing since Creed and continues to wrestle with that impacting her music in this film, is still so much more than this one roadblock. Mary-Anne is dealing with the perils of growing old, and not wanting to lose that independence she’s had so long. While her arc doesn’t result in the same way as the other two, she is another example of older folks not being helpless and not being defined by their age or health status.

The conversations had about processing life are real and authentic, and the impact of loss rears its unwelcomed head again. Redemption is scattered throughout this film. Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) and “Little Duke” Burton (Wood Harris) have the most growth out of anyone between films, and it helps Creed as well. There’s a whole team here, and it’s an important reminder for anyone working towards something. If mistakes happen, a support team is needed to keep moving forward one step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time. How mistakes are handled in the US and there being little chance at redemption is the real villain in this story, not Dame, not Creed, not anyone else.

P.S: Dame Anderson has the most unorthodox style of fighting I’ve ever witnessed, and I hope to see more of it.

P.P.S: Somebody point me in the direction of a speed bag, I suddenly feel like I need to get back to it.


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