The star playing the titular character goes back into the ring as a first-time director and the results are indisputable.
In just a decade, Michael B. Jordan has gone from a relative unknown who broke out in the memorable indie Fruitvale Station to a star playing the son of Adonis Creed from the Rocky movie series and the antagonist of arguably the best Marvel Studios film ever made in Black Panther. And soon, we’ll see him teaming up with Will Smith for the I Am Legend sequel that’s currently in development. But right now, he’s back playing Adonis in Creed III and directing for the first time ever. While Creed III’s storytelling might be by-the-numbers, Jordan flashes potential greatness as a director thanks to the movie’s swagger, two lead performances, conflicts within the story that will have audiences picking sides, and, of course, the boxing matches.
Taking place a few years after Creed II, Creed III shows Adonis Creed having retired from boxing and now raising his daughter with his wife, Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), who is continuing to produce music. Also, while running his own gym with his former boxing coach Tony Evers (Wood Harris), Adonis runs into Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), an old friend (who grew up as a boxing prodigy) fresh out of prison after a serving a long sentence. Looking to have his own shot at a title, Damian asks Adonis for his help. After feeling remorse about what happened in the past, Adonis’ assistance leads to a brewing conflict between the two that spills over into an eventual showdown in the boxing ring.
After the opening sequence, audiences likely are going to have a good idea about what will happen throughout Creed III. But it’s what Michael B. Jordan displays as a director that makes this sequel arguably the most engaging of the series and certainly better than its predecessor. When the film is not in the boxing ring, conversations or conflicts feel just as heavy as the punches that we see throughout the film. Each character’s past and present selves constantly spark emotions among one another as the words come out of their mouths. This is where we get the most out of the cast, and we learn what the film is attempting to say to audiences outside the violent sport it’s centered around.
We know what familiar actors to this franchise bring to the table in Jordan and Thompson. But it’s Jonathan Majors as Damian who steals the show in Creed III. Hot off the heels of last fall’s very good WWI drama Devotion and the just-released Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Majors continues to carve out a name for himself in Hollywood as a budding star. Most boxing films do not give us an antagonist that’s worth investing in, as the boxing stories we’ve seen on film in years past are mostly one-sided, causing audiences root for the protagonist and their journey. But in Creed III, Majors gives us a compelling antagonist with a complicated past whose character arc just might have audience members rooting for him instead of Creed. Delivering the best performance of his career so far (but we know that won’t last long), Majors is a force to be reckoned with both inside and outside the ring of Creed III.
Audiences might be wondering where Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa is this time around. But to be fair, it was time to see his character finally ride off into the sunset and have the focus be entirely on Adonis Creed and his legacy. And by giving Creed an opposing character who makes this film so engaging–despite displaying some tropes we expect to see from a first-time director–Creed III goes the distance in every respect. And for those wondering about boxing itself, don’t worry. Thanks to its fresh approach, there are plenty of thrilling moments in the ring, especially in the film’s final act that rivals some of the best boxing scenes in any previous boxing film.