To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Creed III is a sports drama film directed by Michael B. Jordan (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Keenan Coogler (Space Jam: A New Legacy) and Zach Baylin (King Richard). Featuring Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Mila Davis-Kent, and Phylicia Rashad; the film is the third entry in the Creed series and the ninth installment in the Rocky franchise. Taking place several years after the events of Creed II, Adonis has now retired from boxing and is enjoying family life. When his childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian “Dame” Anderson, reappears after 18 years in prison, he is eager to prove that he still deserves his shot in the ring.
In 2002, a young Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) pretends to be asleep in his room. After Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) checks on him, Adonis sneaks out of the house and meets his friend Damian (Spence Moore II). The two drive down to Compton where Damian has a boxing match. Adonis puts some money on Damian to win and is spotted by Tony “Little Duke” Evers (Wood Harris) before sitting down. Damian wins his fight by knockout in the first round and the boys head to a convenience store to celebrate. Before going in Adonis recognizes a man named Leon and begins to attack him.
In 2020, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) has a rematch with world light heavyweight champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). While it initially looks like Adonis is struggling to clench the victory it turns out that he is studying his opponent’s moves to look for the right opening. A skill that is shown to be learned from Damian. His technique proves advantageous and Adonis lands a powerful strike to Conlan’s side winning the fight and bringing his career full circle. With nothing else to fight for Adonis retires to spend time with his family and grow his empire.
I have always been a big fan of the Rocky films and that fandom has carried over into the Creed films as well. Creed III feels more like a sequel to Creed than Creed II. Where the second film followed up the storyline to Rocky IV, this film delves more into Adonis’ past a few years after moving in with Mary Anne in the first film. We find out that living in Bel-Air didn’t suit young Adonis that well and whenever he could he would sneak out and spend time with his friend Damian in Compton. The two formed a brotherly bond while spending time in a group home.
For a directorial debut, Michael B. Jordan does a tremendous job behind the camera. It helped that he has been a part of the franchise from the beginning and could pick up things from Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr. Jordan finds a way to make the boxing matches look unique, citing an influence from anime in choreographing the film’s fight sequences. This can be seen by his use of slow motion and scenery to make the battles more intense. The only issue I feel Creed III had was with the pacing.
Jordan rushes through some plot elements in the middle that I feel were worth exploring. Not to spoil too much but Damian’s (Johnathan Majors) rise to fame seems to happen overnight after his first big win. While not impossible with deals and sponsorships, it would have helped to see Damian in those meetings. And although this is the shortest Creed film to date Jordan makes time to tie up some loose ends the movies hadn’t explained. We finally find out how big of a music star Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is – a question I mentioned in my Creed II review. We even get a mention of Adonis’ half-siblings who were last seen at Apollo’s funeral in Rocky IV.
In addition to directing, Jordan turns in another phenomenal performance. You can see how much Adonis has grown in the film in both his family and physique. This is probably the biggest Michael B. Jordan has gotten. Whereas in Creed, Adonis was a lean muscular fighter, now his figure looks more in line with Killmonger. We also get to see Adonis using sign language with Amara, which is carried over from her deaf diagnosis shortly after her birth in the previous film. The star of the show however is Johnathan Majors. This story is about Damian just as much as it’s about Adonis. He is probably the greatest boxer we have seen appear in the franchise and the first major Black antagonist since Mason Dixon. Damian is meticulous in how he dismantles his opponents. Relentless in his attacks finding intelligent ways to get away with illegal maneuvers to get his opponents off guard. Even with his advanced age in boxing standards, he can still manage to take out fighters half his age. Leaving viewers to wonder how much more fearsome he would have been in his prime.
This is the first film in the series without Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, though he still serves as a producer. His absence is due to Stallone’s ongoing feud with producer Irwin Winkler who owns the right to the franchise. While Rocky’s sage-like advice and stoic demeanor are missed in the film, this is truly Adonis’ story. There is only one scene in which I felt a cameo from Rocky was necessary and that was the funeral of an important character.
The cinematography is top-notch once again with Kramer Morgenthau (The Many Saints of Newark) returning after taking over for Maryse Alberti on Creed II. The final fight is hands down the most uniquely shot boxing match in the entire Rocky franchise. The soundtrack is also pretty dope with J. Cole and Dreamville Records laying down some tracks that I’m sure will peak pretty high on the Billboard charts. I do miss Ludwig Göransson’s score but Joseph Shirley (The Book of Boba Fett) does a great job of keeping the recognizable themes while moving in a fresh direction.
With a talented cast, a great story, and a great antagonist, Michael B. Jordan knocks out his directorial debut with another solid entry in this franchise. This is a movie about choices and how those choices can affect not only you, but those close to you. I give Creed III a Decent 8.9/10. With Creed IV being announced and a potential Drago spin-off on the way, hopefully Jonathan Majors can return to the franchise as Dame is a powerful adversary!