Adonis Creed has been fighting for years to get away from the shadows. To escape from his father’s legacy and form his own has been the basis of the first two Creed films, but even those films had a shadow hovering over them. To continue in the Rocky franchise also meant to have the weight of its titular character hanging over, especially when its lead actor, Stallone still appeared. Michael B. Jordan as Creed has been an exciting talent to watch, but you’d be lying if you said the first two films were fully his. Ryan Coogler’s 2015 “Creed” is one of the best sports films ever possibly due to its acknowledgement of being both a reboot, but also another chapter in the life and lessons of Rocky Balboa. Creed II found Adonis moving away from being just his father’s son, but it also required him to face the past sins of Rocky and the horrors of his father’s death. It is not that either of these films were lackluster because of this, but with CREED III we are given our first look at Adonis’ own story where even if the past comes creeping back, it is a past based solely on his decisions and no longer of from those that punched before him. CREED III is also directed by first timer director Michael B. Jordan giving a film a larger than fiction story in that here is the chance for Jordan to make a name for himself as a filmmaker and bring the story of Adonis Creed away from the shadows of Rocky, Apollo, Drago and so on and instead prove that any fight from now on will be his and his alone.
CREED III begins with an ending. It is time for Adonis to hang up his gloves but not before he gets to beat up “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) the man who gave him his first shot at being a champion but has never defeated. Adonis is already a champ and the years show on him, his fighting is more focused and his ringside support keeps growing. Staples by his side still include his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their now teenage daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). It is refreshing to know from the start that Adonis is moving away from the ring to keep his family together and support them beyond boxing. It is part of the maturity of the franchise even if you can guess it may not last forever. Adonis’ life outside the ring now involves being a manager creating future champions with his former trainer Tony “Little Duke” Burton (Wood Harris). He is also a family man, dressing up to attend his daughter’s tea parties, being fluent in ASL to communicate with both her and Bianca, and even more so being fully supportive of Bianca’s music career which has moved into song writing and producing new talents. It seems smooth for Adonis which in boxing movies means an enemy is right around the corner. The past finds its way back this time in the form of Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) a childhood friend of Adonis, and in flashbacks we learn was a boxer with a deadly right hook. Damian has been in jail for eighteen years and comes to Adonis not for a hand out (which Adonis first tries to give), but rather guidance and training to become the champion he believes he once could have been. Majors is one of the best working today and has already made his mark of to generational defining talent. From the moment he enters the screen he commands everything with a soft spoken eagerness that is deep seeded in pain and anger. Damian is a man who knows exactly what he wants and only sees one path towards it, and Majors performs it in the same way. A chilling feat from an incredible actor.
Adonis is hesitant to give Damian a fight, he claims that nobody becomes a champion overnight, but Damian sees through the bullshit, “isn’t that what happened to you?” he balks back clearly as someone who sees through all of Adonis’ newfound fame. Damian may be our adversary but he brings a complex look at the way Adonis truly did become someone overnight while so many keep fighting for the chance. The film never belittles the accomplishments but the script does show the back and forth of overnight success in the boxing world and slightly throws it into question. However even with all this it isn’t long until Damian shows his true ways in getting what he wants. As Damian begins to rise up in the boxing world Adonis’ attempt at hiding his past becomes harder and more of a strain on his family. His adoptive mother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) knows the truth and in her failing health is still fighting to keep Adonis safe from a world he narrowly escaped. Bianca on the other hand knows that sometimes you need to let it all out and while the film toes the line of being just a “let men fight” movie it isn’t too far from the truth. The difference being that unlike just a backyard brawl you need to know what you’re fighting for and the cost of it all. Adonis may not be fighting for his life, or even care about the belt, but instead knows this is a fight that should have happened long ago and both of these men need to own up.
While CREED III may be the best character study in this long running franchise (probably since the underrated Rocky Balboa) the film still knows you came here to see some fighting. Jordan also knows you’ve seen about every form of boxing in film, so to his credit, and his two editors Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson, deliver a very unique way to bring us into the ring. Jordan himself has stated many times that his fight sequences will be inspired by his favorite anime shows. He wasn’t lying, and while some old timers may be thrown off at first CREED III gives us a final fight that could easily be placed in some deep episodes of Naruto or some old school Dragon Ball. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone quickly makes a video of this fight and instead inserts Goku and Vegeta. It wears its influence quite heavy but finds itself so exciting that you can’t help but grin the entire time. But this fight is a battle inside your mind where unspoken dialogue still hits loud. Adonis isn’t just fighting Damian, but rather the mistakes they have both bestowed upon one another as well as the wounds neither of them deserved. CREED III can feel like a chapter in a soon to be long running story, but is one that is fully needed for Adonis if he ever wants to keep moving forward. His legacy may be defined but to keep it alive he still has a long road ahead of him. CREED III however proves that nobody, especially moviegoers, are leaving his ringside anytime soon.
CREED III IS IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE MARCH 3