Michael B. Jordan’s “Creed III”: An exhilarating sports drama with style

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The “Rocky” franchise began in 1976 and starred actor Sylvester Stallone. The sports drama highlighted underdog boxer and reigning champion Apollo Creed as he aimed for the HeavyWeight Championship.

39 years and six “Rocky” movies later, the focus now shifts to Apollo’s son, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), who convinces an older Rocky to train him for his own chance at the HeavyWeight Championship.

With “Creed” and its sequel “Creed II” being box-office successes and Jordan gaining A-list stardom, the studio greenlit a third “Creed” film directed by the protagonist himself. Recurring stars include Tessa Thompson as Adonis’ wife Bianca and Phylicia Rashad acting alongside new cast member Jonathan Majors, who plays the film’s antagonist Damian Anderson.

“Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler directed the previous “Creed” films until he passed the torch to Jordan. Nonetheless, Coogler still had input on the film’s story line and overall production. “Creed III” is Jordan’s directorial debut and the only “Rocky” franchise film without Stallone as Rocky.

Though the best film in the franchise spot is taken by “Creed I” for its acting performances and direction, “Creed III” is still a breath of fresh air in a film series that needed an urgent shake-up.

The film follows a retired Adonis Creed as he faces off against his former friend. Damian Anderson challenges him following his release from prison, determined to bring down Adonis’s boxing empire based on events from their past.

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The film’s family aspect focuses on Adonis as a father to Amara Creed (Mila Davis-Kent). The family focus is different from previous “Rocky” films, which were carried by workout montages and underdog stories.

Supported by great performances from Jordan, Majors and Thompson, “Creed III” focuses on Adonis’ past more than its predecessors and explores themes of fatherhood, friendship, betrayal and redemption.

The star of the show is Jonathan Majors, whose stellar performance as Damian convinces as a menacing heel to rival a larger-than-life Adonis Creed.

Though lacking the strengths in screenplay, cinematography and direction of the previous “Creed” films, “Creed III” brings originality and nuance in both Jordan’s direction and its action sequences, which are more active and moving than Coogler’s.

The highlight of the film is the final fight sequence, which Jordan claims was influenced by his favorite anime. True to his words, the fight sequences are less boxing-like and more cinematic, with more attention to the personal and emotional aspects of battle than the actual fight itself.

Though we’ve sat through nine “Rocky” films, we always seem to come back for more. “Creed III” proves that there is potential for range in the sports-drama series, and with several spinoffs and a “Creed IV” already confirmed, we can expect to watch more punching and rolling for years to come.