“Creed III:” Out of Rocky’s Shadow

Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut redefines the boxing franchise as we know it.

Photo Courtesy / YouTube MGM

It has been 47 years since “Rocky” released, and the legacy of the iconic film carries on today: the theme song, the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and now the “Creed” trilogy. 

Ultimately a spinoff of the original boxing saga, these newer projects follow Adonis Creed, son of Apollo from “Rocky.” Starring Michael B. Jordan in the titular role, both “Creed” and “Creed II” capitalized on the nostalgia of the franchise by utilizing Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa as a central figure in the plot.

“Creed III,” which hit theaters on March 3, decided to pivot away from this iconic character. This seismic shift comes in lockstep with lead star Jordan taking over directorial duties – his behind the camera debut. Needless to say, these gambles represent a leap of faith for a trilogy looking to escape the shadow of one of cinema’s most iconic franchises.

“Creed III” did just that.

This latest release eclipses the shortcomings of the preceding “Creed” entries, establishing a stronger plot and greater character depth right from the opening minutes. “Creed III” benefits from a time jump after the second film, removing the main characters from the circumstances of the prior installment. This allows the latest entry to truly isolate itself from the others, making this an Adonis Creed story rather than a continuation of a Rocky Balboa plotline.

From a directorial perspective, Jordan’s first project was an incredible accomplishment given his lack of experience in the role. The visuals were stunning and the fight scene cinematography did not disappoint. While it becomes somewhat unconventional at times during the third act, the unique approach to boxing scenes was a breath of fresh air and truly amplified the moment. While some older audiences, perhaps those dedicated to the original “Rocky” product, may gawk at the use of slow motion and fast camera cuts during the fight, fans of different genres such as anime will certainly pick up on Jordan’s vision.

As if there was any doubt, Jordan continues to dominate the screen with his acting ability while taking on these additional responsibilities. From emotional scenes to those involving boxing, Jordan’s dynamic nature allows him to carry every scene. There are very few moments where he is not on screen, and rightfully so with how he performed. Kudos to the writers of this film for creating such depth to the character of Creed, balancing him as a father and husband on top of being a boxer.

The rest of the cast turn in serviceable performances as well, but outside of Jonathan Majors’s Damian, the others were not given enough screen time to truly leave their mark on the film.  Damian is given a strong backstory, but is flawed in that his present-day self is very much just another very strong, very muscular foe in the ring. Yes, there is certainly plenty of depth to the role, but it is not uncovered enough outside of the flashback scenes. Others like Tessa Thompson and Wood Harris perform well, but contribute much more to the overall product in earlier “Creed” films. This is more indicative of the writers, however– not so much their acting ability.

For fans of boxing movies, “Creed III” is a must see in theaters. The IMAX experience is one to behold, especially in the third act as every punch lands. The film’s impressive soundtrack is also much more prominent in a theater setting, something that truly contributed to the goosebumps felt throughout the final act.

“Creed III” is currently playing in theaters. Previous “Creed” films can be found streaming on HBO Max.