Creed III

Creed III Review

It’s hard to imagine that when Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan set out to reboot the Rocky series with Creed, there would be prominent sequels in theatres almost a decade later. Jordan’s run as Adonis Creed pushed the character beyond Rocky’s shadow, which meant he could say goodbye to Sylvester Stallone at the end of Creed II. Despite the lack of Stallone onscreen and Coogler behind the camera, Creed III doesn’t miss a beat, thanks to showstopping turns by Jordan and Jonathan Majors.

The younger Creed proved the naysayers wrong. He dominated the boxing landscape and made himself equal to his father’s legacy. With nothing left to prove, he stepped out of the ring. Now he makes matches, building future talent and giving back to young fighters who came from nothing. Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is also a producer, having made her name in the music industry. Adonis and Bianca have it all on top of the world, which sets up a former friend to send them a long way down.

Being the ninth film in the Rocky series, it’s fair to assume the franchise may be spent, but Creed III offers perhaps the most compelling rivalry the series has seen. Nothing startles you like staring your past right in the face. As close as brothers once, a decades-long stint in prison renders Adonis and Damian (Majors) unrecognizable to each other on the street. Success has been kind to Adonis, but Damian has known only cruelty. Watching Adonis live the good life through prison television has made him bitter.

Majors’ performance as Damian Anderson works as a brilliant foil to Adonis twofold. One, he is the inversion of Creed’s life had Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) not pulled him from that group home. Two, he provides a physical threat to Adonis not present in past films. Sure, Ricky Conlan and Viktor Drago were fearsome, but Damian must annihilate his opponents. He’s satisfied with nothing less. Majors proves here that not only is 2023 his year (two months in) but that he is a certified star.


Majors every gesture as Damian commands fear, yet the script develops enough pathos for the audience to feel for him. Even when it’s clear that his friendship might only be a guise to get rich. Creed doesn’t fault Damian for his rage. He can’t. If only out of guilt. Long ago, at a traffic stop, Damian made a decision that altered their lives irrevocably. Damian’s decision to take the fall for Adonis, rooted in concern for his younger friend, takes a darker turn in prison. There, Damian watches Adonis rise to glory and stews in jealousy. “You a coward, bro, and a fraud.” He warns Adonis, “I’m coming for it all.” Damian was a boxing prodigy before incarceration. In his bones, he knows Adonis took the life that should have been his.

The Rocky franchise made its name on an underdog from a bad part of town. It grew into a massive franchise that lost sight of the inequity in America. The Creed trilogy touches those roots again, specifically from Black America’s experience with systemic injustice. Creed explored coming up from nothing, and Creed II tackled maintaining the status quo with a checkered past. From behind the camera, Jordan questions the view of Black wealth from lower rungs on the economic ladder, and specifically, how success could be interpreted as assimilation into the White community.

Adonis’s family name offered him an instant escape, whereas the group home guaranteed him a cycle of violence and poverty. Damian needles Adonis’ masculinity and his cushy life, intensifying an already fraught relationship. Adonis can’t let himself express his guilt for Damian’s imprisonment, instead taking out his anger on his family. Here is where Tessa Thompson shines as Bianca. Where movie boxing wives threaten to take the kids and leave, Bianca has equal financial standing with Adonis. She pushes him right back. Having stepped out of the spotlight too, but for reasons out of her control, Bianca forces Adonis to reckon with his past rather than dissolve in self-pity.

Playing off his character’s withholding instincts from the previous two films, Jordan finally gets emotionally messy with his wife and daughter. Mila Davis-Kent plays Adonis and Bianca’s daughter, Amara. Her presence adds a lot, not just to the ensemble but to Adonis’s headspace. Whenever Adonis looks into his daughter’s eyes, he knows he could lose much more than a match, potentially recreating the tragic cycle that befell him. No one outruns their past; you can accept it or let it burn you down.


What hindered Jordan’s run as Creed before was the passive villains. They passed the eye test as far as capable boxers, yet they lacked a compelling narrative. Conlan was mouthy. Drago was also a son of a heralded father. Neither boxer provided a meaningful story arc. Their inclusion merely echoes Rocky and Rocky IV. Jordan and Majors add the personal and emotional stakes to this outing that weren’t present in Creed II.

Investing in the interior lives of its characters pushes the last act toward the thrilling. Nothing that happens will shock you—sports dramas are reliable comfort food for audiences—yet Jordan powers his film through its emotional climax. Creed III‘s inarguable draw is Jordan and Majors as Creed and Damian Anderson, friends, made enemies by fate and time.

Yet the best surprise of the film is the development of Jordan as a director. Jordan, a noted fan of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, incorporates anime stylings into a genre hyper-focused on realism. Juxtaposed against the docudrama fighting of Rocky, he and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau highlight specific body parts mid-fight, taking frames off to focus on the rage-filled eyes of Adonis and Damian. Where most boxing films float around the ring, allowing the audience to see everything from an omniscient p.o.v., the camera shakes and blurs to mimic their state of mind. The Dodger Stadium boxing sequences, in particular, hint at his talent. The editing (by Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson) during the final fight calculatedly delivers the punishment and speed of modern boxing. Shot with IMAX cameras, the scene brings viewers as close to the ring as they can go without getting blood on their clothes.

Creed III debuts in theatres on March 3.