Boxing has always been a sport of physical action, one as intense as football and as punishing as wrestling. Pitted against each other, two boxers with different circumstances clash together in a gripping battle for something more than themselves. With no personal connection, they fight for respect, the titles of champions, and the glory that comes with it all. Now, replace those boxers with fighters who share the same emotionally charged history and you get more than a boxing fight. You get Creed III, a passionate sequel that gives the audience everything and more.
Creed III, Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut, continues the story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) after having reached the top of the boxing world. Living a peaceful life with his wife Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), Creed retires to a simpler life of management at the Delphi Boxing Academy. However, childhood friend and former boxing prodigy Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) re-enters Creed’s life in hopes for redemption. Now, Creed must determine whether he’ll support Damian’s re-emergence into boxing despite their troubled past and shared internal tendencies.
Focusing on the personal rivalry between Creed and Damian, Creed III allows itself to construct an engrossing power dynamic within a tough bond of brotherhood. From the terrifyingly realistic moments of their past to the present day, every scene with these two embodies the seriousness of this dynamic in ways that keep you hooked in the hopes of a resolution. Jordan continues to dig deeper with Adonis Creed, who faces a new dilemma between retiring with his family and confronting a remnant of his past in Damian Anderson. Pushing Creed’s emotional characterization to a higher level with touching familial moments in between, Jordan fully understands and embraces who Creed is and has become.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Majors puts great effort into making Damian Anderson a worthy opponent for Jordan’s Creed, capturing an intensive, envious aggravation that seems to carry over and improve from his role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Mixed with a motivation to win by any means in the gritty reality of Creed, Majors does a great job humanizing Damian while building on his physical strengths. Together, Jordan and Majors create a hot-blooded, yet sympathetic chemistry that binds all the movie’s shifting parts together.
The familial core of Creed III is incredibly essential to forging this burning rivalry, and Zach Baylin’s writing, influenced by Ryan Coogler and Keenan Coogler’s world-building, establishes such depth to make Creed’s relationship with his family simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. The quieter moments between Creed, Taylor, and their daughter Amara are sweet and a joy to watch as most scenes with the family bring a feeling of charm that was slightly touched upon in the previous films. Additionally, the relationship between Creed and Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) not only bonds the Creed family closer, but it also plays a critical role in creating Creed and Damian’s feud. The scenes between the Creed family and Mary Anne range from pleasingly amusing to strikingly gripping and all these moments come together beautifully.
For his first directorial debut, Jordan excels at making reflective, contrasting visuals and visceral action that highlights the personal intensity between Creed and Damian. From the trailers, the visual differences could be easily seen, but they still play an interesting role in exploring these contrasts. Furthermore, Creed III pulls a unique spin on its action unlike its predecessors. Specifically in the final boxing match (which utilizes its own psychological twist), Jordan successfully incorporates influences from several different anime properties including Dragon Ball Z, Megalo Box, and more to center your attention and awe on those hard-hitting moments between Creed and Damian. The choreography of these fights almost mimics the techniques from those shows, but the movie’s base in reality helps the action feel more impactful all the way.
While this film succeeds in cementing its place within this franchise, there are still some issues it can’t run away from. Particularly, some story beats in the film feel reminiscent of the events of Rocky 3 and 4, playing out similarly to the important moments from those movies. Some of them had a dramatic edge while others were somewhat predictable, pulling out from those events in order to create dramatic tension between Creed and Damian. These moments may have had some re-writing to adapt to the film’s overall story, but I couldn’t help but to think that these parts were a retread of the past.
One other minor problem was that some of the familial beats could have been touched on more to make them bear a stronger impact. This mostly happens around the events with Amara, whose character development felt a bit rushed to slightly make way for the bigger story. Seemingly wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps as a boxer, it would have been interesting to see Amara have a confliction whether to follow her mother or her father given the events that play out near the second third of the movie as well as what already played out previously. However, the supportive chemistry between Creed and Amara is still entertaining and the scenes with the two certainly invites more exploration.
Creed III is another winner that raises the bar with a gripping, emotional story fueled by a thrilling rivalry for modern cinema. With a strong sense of realism mixed with echoes of the Rocky franchise, it firmly explores all of its themes with purpose and dignity. Add in powerful emotional beats aided by genuine performances and this movie drives home what it wants to be: an engaging piece about time, choice, and legacy. With this success, Michael B. Jordan should return to the director’s chair in the future; this will not be his final round in the ring.
Creed III releases theatrically on March 3.