Opening in theaters on March 3rd is the third film in the ‘Creed’ series and the ninth movie set in the ‘Rocky’ universe entitled ‘Creed III,’ which also marks the directorial debut of Adonis “Donnie” Creed actor Michael B. Jordan.
What is ‘Creed III’ about?
Following the events of 2018’s ‘Creed II,’ Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is about to retire as the undisputed Heavy Weight Champion of the World. But when Creed’s childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors), resurfaces after serving a long sentence in prison, he asks Donnie for help getting back into boxing, as he is determined to win the championship. Eventually, Donnie is forced back into the ring to fight his former friend, facing an opponent he’s never fought before – a fighter who has nothing to lose!
“You can’t run from your past.”
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After dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed has been thriving in both his career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damien Anderson,… Read the Plot
Who is in the cast of ‘Creed III?’
‘Creed III’ stars Michael B. Jordan (‘Black Panther’) as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, Tessa Thompson (‘Thor: Love and Thunder’) as Bianca Taylor, Jonathan Majors (‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’) as Damian “Dame” Anderson, Wood Harris (‘Blade Runner 2049’) as Tony “Little Duke” Evers, Florian Munteanu (‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’) as Viktor Drago, and Phylicia Rashad (‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’) as Mary Anne Creed.
In his third outing as Adonis Creed, Michael B. Jordan gives another strong and dedicated performance but it is his work behind the camera that is truly impressive, while Jonathan Majors steals every scene he is in with his menacing and electrifying performance as Damian Anderson.
Michael B. Jordan’s Direction and Performance
Michael B. Jordan is one of the best actors of his generation and has demonstrated this in moving independent features like ‘Fruitvale Station,’ and strong blockbusters like ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Creed.’ Returning for his third time as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, and first time without Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa (more on that later), Jordan gives a mature performance proving that the character has grown since the last we saw him.
This is an older Donnie, a successful professional athlete on the verge of retirement looking forward to spending more time with his aging mother, musician wife, and deaf daughter. But Donnie is haunted by his childhood living in an orphanage, before his father’s widow adopted him, and the dark secrets he has been hiding for most of his life. Once Damian returns, it stirs up these old feelings in Donnie, which Dame brilliantly uses to his advantage.
It seems as if Jordan is channeling some of himself into the role, as the megastar actor can relate to being financially successful, and the problems that comes with that level of success. But as Donnie, he also wants to protect his family and their future from the sins of his past. Donnie is not a lost boy anymore, as he was depicted in the first ‘Creed,’ he is now a man and a champion, and that comes shining through Jordan’s performance.
Jordan also has an extremely impressive directorial debut with ‘Creed III.’ Jordan balances the film’s tones of fighting for survival and redemption quite well, and even injects some humor into the film. Jordan clearly has learned a lot about filmmaking from his years on sets and from watching his mentor and collaborator director Ryan Coogler on ‘Fruitvale Station,’ ‘Creed’ and ‘Black Panther.’
While Jordan handles the emotions and drama of ‘Creed III’ very well, he also makes the fight scenes interesting, moving the camera around the ring with the fighters and using slow-motion sparingly but effectively. However, there is one choice Jordan made as a director that I completely disagree with and it actually took me out of the movie for a second. It’s a scene that comes towards the end of the film’s final fight sequence, so I will be careful not to give too much away. But Jordan makes a directorial choice to inject the fight with visual metaphors that hurt the reality of the fight scene itself, and for me, took the viewer completely out of the moment. I get what Jordan was going for, but I just don’t think it worked.
Related Article: Michael B. Jordan Says ‘Creed IV’ is “For Sure”
Why is Rocky not in ‘Creed III?’
‘Creed III’ marks the first film in the trilogy to not also feature Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character. The trilogy is clearly a spinoff of the ‘Rocky’ franchise, and while the character is mentioned once or twice in passing, Balboa’s whereabouts and why he is no longer in Donnie’s corner are never revealed.
Jordan and the other filmmakers do a good job of creating a ‘Rocky’ movie without Rocky, and while it is still in the vein of the previous films in the franchise, they go out of their way to make it different from the other movies in the series. The “Theme from Rocky” or “Gonna Fly Now,” as it is better known, is barely used, if at all, and has been modified so you can barely hear it in the background.
There is also a moment where you can tell the filmmakers wanted to step away from what you would expect from a ‘Rocky’ movie. In the inevitable training montage, Donnie runs to the top of a hill overlooking the Los Angeles skyline. This would seem to be the perfect moment to have the theme start playing and for Donnie to pump his fists in the air, recreating the iconic moment on the Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs from the original ‘Rocky,’ which has been duplicated in almost every ‘Rocky’ movie since. But Jordan avoids that moment, like so many other typical ‘Rocky’ moments that the film ignores, which really places the movie into its own chapter of the ‘Rocky’ story.
But honestly, the real reason Rocky does not appear in ‘Creed III’ is more complicated. While Sylvester Stallone did create the characters in the ‘Rocky’ franchise and the original screenplay, he sold the rights to producer Irwin Winkler and MGM decades ago to get the first movie made, and thus has no real say in the future of the franchise. Apparently, Stallone did not agree with the direction Winkler, Jordan and ‘Creed’ director Ryan Coogler, who is given story credit on this movie, wanted to take the future of the franchise. Whether Stallone will ever play Balboa again on the big screen is yet to be known, but the actor does not appear in ‘Creed III’ and the character is barely mentioned.
I understand the circumstance, and think it was probably best to continue the Creed story without Rocky, however, I would have liked a little more explanation as to why the character doesn’t appear, and why he is no longer in Donnie’s corner. In fact, Rocky is only really mentioned in passing as “that guy your dad fought,” and the other ‘Creed’ movies certainly established a close if not father/son relationship between Rocky and Donnie. So, it is weird that there is no character update in ‘Creed III’ regarding Rocky or why he is no longer Donnie’s trainer, and it seems that a simple line of dialogue or two could have fixed that issue.
Who Will Adonis fight in ‘Creed III?’
To be accurate, Adonis begins the film with a rematch against his opponent from ‘Creed II,’ Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). But it is his old friend Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) that is Donnie’s main opponent in ‘Creed III,’ both in the ring and out. Anderson is Donnie’s oldest friend, who has just been released from prison, something Donnie blames himself for.
At first, Damian asks Donnie for help training, as he is determined to win the championship, despite his age and lack of experience as a professional boxer. Donnie agrees, but bumps heads with Damian, who clearly has a chip on his shoulder. Donnie eventually helps Damian become champ, but it’s not enough for Dame, and he goes after Donnie and his family personally and publicly in order to convince Donnie to get back into the ring so he can show the world he is the better fighter and have payback for what happened between them in the past.
After fantastic performances in last year’s ‘Devotion’ and ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,’ which hit theaters last week, ‘Creed III’ is posed to cement Jonathan Majors reputation as one of the finest actors working today. Majors gives an absolutely stunning and menacing performance as Damian Anderson, and at times, even out shines Jordan himself. Majors plays Damian as a brooding and calculating character, one who knows just how to push his old friend’s buttons perfectly to get the desired reaction. Damian is a real threat to Donnie, in the ring and out, but their former friendship is what keeps the dynamic fresh and interesting.
Majors is also in top physical shape for this movie, lending to his threat to Donnie, making the idea of Creed winning their fight impossible, which adds to the film’s suspense. In the world of ‘Rocky’ movies, I would put Damian Anderson right up there with Mr. T’s Clubber Lang from ‘Rocky III,’ and of course Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) from ‘Rocky IV,’ as the strongest opponents in this franchise.
The Rest of the Cast
Besides Majors and Jordan, the strongest performance in the movie comes from Tessa Thompson as Donnie’s wife Bianca Taylor, and the actress has really made this character her own. Even from the first ‘Creed,’ Thompson has taken the role and elevated her from the “sideline support” that Adrian (Talia Shire) gave Rocky in the original. Bianca has always had her own storyline, whether it is concentrating on her music career, or dealing with her progressive degenerative hearing disorder.
In the new film, she is a mother of a deaf child, the wife of a boxing champ, and also a successful music producer. Thompson plays the role of supporting wife well, but is at her best in scenes dealing with her family, the secrets that Donnie has been keeping from her, or her reluctance to except Damian as a friend. Thompson elevates the role, and over three films, has created a fully formed character that you can really relate to.
Phylicia Rashad also returns as Donnie’s adopted mother Mary Anne Creed, the widow of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). The actress is given a little more to do this time around, as Donnie’s childhood plays into the main story with Damian. Wood Harris also reprises his role from the other ‘Creed’ movies as Tony “Little Duke” Evers Jr., who is Donnie’s trainer and the son of Apollo Creed’s trainer. Harris is fine in the role, but again, it is strange to look in Donnie’s corner and not see Rocky!
In the end, while ‘Creed III’ does exist in the ‘Rocky’ universe, it is completely its own film. This is Adonis “Donnie” Creed’s story, and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Star Michael B. Jordan gives another strong performance as the character and also gives an impressive directorial debut, while Jonathan Majors continues to dazzle in another remarkable and transformative performance.
‘Creed III’ receives 8 out of 10 stars.
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‘Creed III’ is produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Chartoff-Winkler Productions, Outlier Society Productions, Proximity Media, and Balboa Productions, and is scheduled for release on March 3rd.