In terms of the various legacy sequels, Creed remains one of, if not my absolute, favorite of the bunch. While I certainly love The Force Awakens, Blade Runner 2049, or Top Gun: Maverick as much as the next guy – there’s something about the first Creed film and the raw emotion within it that always has me revisiting it, and making me look at it above being just another legacy sequel. I’m even a huge fan of Creed II, a film that I think does a fantastic job at mining for authentic and raw emotion and completely rides that wave in an organic and satisfying way. However, Creed III feels the most interesting to me of the bunch, as it it predominantly feels like a story isolated from the larger Rocky-universe; he doesn’t even appear in the film! The central focus of the film has nothing to do with past Rocky characters or further connections to Apollo Creed – it’s simply a really personal, focused story for Adonis.
The film takes place many years after the events of Creed II, with Adonis (once again played wonderfully by Michael B. Jordan) stepping away from boxing with a somewhat early retirement to focus on his family and taking more of a mentor role as he becomes more hands-on at the Delphi Gym with its younger fighters who are trying to build up their careers. We also find Creed at his most domesticated, as he owns a giant house with Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and his daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) who is now much older than when we last saw her. It truly seems like Adonis has it all and feels the most at peace with himself and his life than he ever has before, but this leads to Damian (Jonathan Majors) coming back into his life. Throughout the use of flashbacks, we see Damian’s relationship and history with Adonis play-out, and how long-lasting it actually was. Due to all this history, Adonis decides to give Damian a chance at becoming a fighter – but this quickly takes a turn as Adonis realizes Damian’s true nature and motives. This results in Adonis debating about whether or not to come out of retirement and face him the only way he knows how.
In addition to starring once again as Adonis Creed, Michael B. Jordan steps behind the camera for this entry, making it his directorial debut; and it’s absolutely one of the biggest takeaways from the film. Fight choreography is always a must when it comes to the Creed or Rocky films, but it truly feels like Jordan wanted to ensure these fights were a little bit unlike anything you’ve ever seen in one of these movies before. Each fight has not only a unique energy to them in terms of pacing and how brutal they can get, but the way Jordan shoots and presents these sequences is absolutely phenomenal; there are so many genuinely gorgeous and visually inventive sequences in the film. A lot of this is also in credit to cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, who does some seriously brilliant work and delivers some boxing sequences that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
But the biggest plus here is the fact that the extremely personal and focused story at its core never gets lost within everything else Jordan tries to do with all the action and spectacle. So many first-time directors bite off a bit more than they can chew in attempt to prove themselves, but Creed III feels like such an assured effort in every conceivable way. The way it balances its heart and central story with some of the most enthralling and brutal fight sequences you’ve ever seen in a boxing film before is.. extremely impressive. The emotion does a great job at not only delivering a hand-full of tear-jerking, powerful dramatic sequences; but these moments also prove as wonderful tension-building for the fights – the fights can be as visually stunning and intricately designed and presented as they want; but it only matters if you give a shit about the characters and their struggles before they step into the ring, and I think Michael B. Jordan has an amazing understanding of how to make all of this work in a truly effective and satisfying way.
As I previously said, Michael B. Jordan really comes to play this time around as Creed and, naturally, returning performers like Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad deliver some really powerful work this time around as well. But this is truly the year for Jonathan Majors, as he delivers one of the best performances of the entire Creed/Rocky franchise and serves as one the best antagonists they’ve ever made. His performance is heartbreaking, intense, and downright scary at times; he’s a character always teetering on the edge of good and bad – but that just makes him all the more compelling and easy to care about, despite the fact that he serves as an antagonist to Adonis. The electric chemistry between Jordan and Majors, as well as their two fantastic, individual performances and story arcs makes for the third-act brawl between the two of them to be both heart-wrenching and incredibly intense.
Creed III serves both as a very essential next-step for the character of Adonis, proving that he has so much potential for stories outside of ties to the larger Rocky-universe to be told. On the flip side, it does feel like a genuine end to an arc of sorts throughout this trilogy – with Adonis truly feeling like a fully-changed man when you compare it to where he was at the start of the original Creed. All of this results to Creed III feeling like a miracle of sorts; a film that cements the fact that we have a trilogy with three truly great films and a clear, narrative through-line between all of them that results into an incredibly satisfying finale; regardless of whether or not it’s actually the last time we see Adonis.
Michael B. Jordan did a hell of a job here. What a film!