Creed III

When Creed opened in 2015, helmed by little-known director Ryan Coogler who only had one feature credit to his name, the Rocky franchise spin-off was far better than it had any right to be. Detailing the journey of Adonis ‘Donnie’ Creed, son of Rocky’s legendary foe Apollo Creed, Coogler’s thrilling boxing drama proved a critical flashpoint for the career of its lead, Michael B. Jordan. Eight years on and one solid 2018 sequel later, the student becomes the master both in front of and behind the camera as Jordan makes his directorial debut with Creed III.

We rejoin Donnie in his last fight against Creed rival Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). After a successful bout, he retires from the ring and begins running a boxing gym and fight promotion business in partnership with his trainer Duke (Wood Harris). He’s also deep into fatherhood, raising daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Ken) alongside wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who is now a decorated singer turned producer in her own right. The Creeds have made their dreams come true. But Donnie faces a rude awakening with the arrival of former friend Damian ‘Dame’ Anderson (Jonathan Majors). An incident that occurred when the pair were children saw Dame – then a promising young boxer – receive 18 years in prison. Now released, he’s hellbent on heavyweight glory.

While all the hallmarks of the Creed Universe are present, from doting stepmother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), to the welcome appearance of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), one figure remains outside the frame. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) was a core part of the series, not only as the bridge between the classic movies but as a mentor and source of the mental and emotional edge Donnie needed to best each competitor. However, Rocky’s absence comes at a necessary point in the franchise where Adonis must graduate to become his own driving force. Michael B. Jordan also makes this tricky ascension as he takes the director’s chair and puts his stamp on the film in a way that’s admirable in its fearless qualities.

Leaving Philadelphia behind and moving to Donnie’s hometown of Los Angeles, Jordan makes a clear break from the past and, complete with a quintessentially West Coast soundtrack, asserts that the narrative finally rests entirely outside the Balboa legacy. This sets the stage for Jordan to continue to make choices that distinguish Creed III from its predecessors. A well-documented fan of Japanese anime, Jordan passionately embraces the opportunity to infuse the film with its core tenets.

Present in the boxing scenes from the outset but coming to fruition most faithfully in the final fight, Jordan makes use of slow motion, frenetic combinations and sharp close-up camera angles to illustrate both the internal and external battle between friends. This distinctive method doesn’t always mesh and may leave some missing a more lengthy match-up with a polished style. However, it’s useful as a way to reimagine fight scenes the audience already expects at this point.

As Dame, Majors is formidable both mentally and physically. Despite displaying a level of bravado, Majors forgoes moustache-twirling villain territory to play a quietly menacing foe. A tightly wound coil, machine-like in drive and power, Majors keeps the audience on tenterhooks as we wait for Dame’s inevitable strike. Able to poke vengefully at a past Donnie has shut himself off from and left his loved ones in the dark about, Dame represents his deep angst and guilt. In facing off against his friend, Donnie is forced to confront the toxicity of bottling up his emotions, and while the Creed films have often been at their most impactful when exploring masculinity, there are threads that feel unfinished in this outing.

Similarly, an interesting subplot where Amara seems to take on her father’s trait of processing her issues with her fists doesn’t quite blossom to its full potential. With a runtime of just 117 minutes, Creed III is the shortest in the trilogy, and while the moviegoing climate isn’t necessarily crying out for longer films right now, it does feel like an extra 15 minutes might have allowed more time to breathe between scenes and expand on certain narrative developments.

In taking on a popular franchise as his directorial debut, Jordan could easily have felt the need to play it safe for fear of derailing a series close to the heart of fans and himself as its star. Yet, with a clear vision and understanding of the storytelling, and buoyed by Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler’s deft screenplay, Jordan makes an ambitious debut that needs more finetuning at times but retains the best traits of the trilogy to remain a suitably introspective, yet thrilling chapter in the Creed legend.

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Michael B. Jordan faces off against Jonathan Majors while we mere mortals swoon.


A solid directorial debut from Jordan that gives fans what they came for and brings something new.


Some underfed elements keep the film from being a knockout, but this is still a franchise entry to be proud of.


Directed by

Michael B Jordan


Michael B Jordan,

Tessa Thompson,

Jonathan Majors

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