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Michael B. Jordan’s ‘Creed III’ Comes Out Punching

Creed III marks the ninth movie set in the Rocky universe (only four short of what Weird Al promised us) and the first to not feature the character of Rocky Balboa. The first Creed took its plot cues from the first Rocky movie. The second Creed movie inexplicably, and kind of awesomely, decided Rocky IV needed a direct sequel. And now, directed by Michael B. Jordan, here comes Creed III which takes some elements of both Rocky III and Rocky V.

When we catch up with Adonis Creed (Jordan) in Creed III, he has fought his last fight (spoiler: he has not fought his last fight) and has retired as the undisputed heavyweight champion. Adonis is now happily retired, living with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Adonis now spends his time training the current new champion, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), while also working as a promoter, spinning an upcoming bout between Chavez and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu, back from Creed II) as a fight to end all fights, that will certainly make everyone involved a lot of money.

It’s then that a face from Adonis’s past shows up, Damian Anderson, played by Jonathan Majors, who seems hell-bent on taking over every major franchise right now. Dame, as he’s called, took the fall for a fight Adonis started when they were kids and has now returned after spending the last couple of decades in prison. Dame asks Adonis for a title shot against Felix Chavez, which Adonis finds ridiculous since Dame has never even fought professionally, let alone, out of nowhere, gets a title shot. Well, due to an unfortunate injury to Drago, Adonis’s big fight he’s promoting is in jeopardy and now needs another boxer on short notice to fill in for Drago. Anyway, yes, Dame gets his title shot. But in the spirit of Rocky III where Rocky fights Mr. T’s Clubber Lang twice, there are two big fights that happen in Creed III as Adonis himself feels the only way to right some wrongs is to come out of retirement and – it will probably come as a shock to no one, especially if you’ve seen the trailer – fight Dame himself.

It’s funny, even in terms of directing, how these movies mirror the Rocky movies. Okay, yes, Stallone directed the little-seen Paradise Alley first and didn’t let the bad reviews sway him from directing Rocky II, Rocky III, and Rocky IV. Now Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with Creed III and he and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau have shot a really great-looking movie.

Being Jordan’s first time directing, it’s probably for the best Stallone sits this one out. Read almost literally every single wiki page for every movie Stallone stars in but didn’t direct and there’s a section about how “Stallone and the director didn’t see eye to eye and Stallone wound up basically directing the movie himself.” So I can see why Jordan maybe didn’t want to deal with that. But on the flip side, there’s a scene in this movie where Adonis is at his lowest moment, has no one to turn to, and a nice pep talk from Adonis’s old pal Rocky would have been a nice moment. The scene was kind of begging for it. But I doubt Stallone would agree to just a cameo. So here we are with no Rocky Balboa.

There’s nothing that surprising that happens in Creed III, but at this point in the ninth chapter of a franchise about boxers, I’m not sure what surprise could really happen at this point. Like I said, it mirrors Rocky III with a challenger showing up who doesn’t have the access to the training and equipment that his future foes do and is just pure grit, catching everyone by surprise. And using the Rocky V angle of a retired boxer who still wants to be a part of the action and takes on a boxer that might not be all that he claims to be.

But Creed III does serve as a nice springboard to whatever future movies Jordan wants to direct. He’s done a really great job here. And it, of course, allows Jonathan Majors another chance to emote. Right now, Majors has to be the king of emoting. He is truly great at it. What’s interesting about this movie is a viewer can see both sides of the conflict between Adonis and Dame, at least to a point. As kids, Dame took the fall for something Adonis started, but also Dame escalated the situation by bringing a gun. And Adonis has to emotionally wrestle with the feelings of guilt and how much is owed in a situation like this. Will it ever be enough?

Speaking of enough, I’m curious after this if we will see more Creed. I actually hope so. These are continually fun movies and I can’t get enough. Jordan is only 36, but is playing slightly older so the math lines up that he’s Apollo Creed’s son. But then again, Stallone was 60 when Rocky Balboa came out. If we follow that model, we still have 24 years of Creed movies to look forward to. We may still get to the 13 that Weird Al promised us.

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