Naturally, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa has served as the focal point of the Rocky film series for nearly 50 years. Rocky continued to play a significant role at the weekend box office even after it was relaunched to focus on the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), in Ryan Coogler’s 2015 film Creed. While Stallone’s portrayal of Rocky made sense in Creed and won him his first acting Academy Award nomination in nearly forty years, by Creed II, it was evident that Stallone’s ongoing presence in the series was more of a hindrance to Creed’s narrative than an advantage. In Creed III, the protagonist’s story finally moves on from Rocky, giving Creed a chance to stand alone and giving director Neil Jordan an opportunity to make his feature film debut. Rocky isn’t even referenced once in Creed III, which is interesting given that it’s mainly about how the past and current influence the future.
But as Creed III delves into the early years of young Adonis Creed, before we ever met him in Creed, Jordan, the film’s director, is modernizing this franchise for a younger audience by experimenting, breaking the rules, and playing with what this franchise can be—while still maintaining the basic framework of these movies.
Jordan is a refreshing change of pace for the Rocky/Creed universe, an exciting illustration of the potential remaining for this series nine films in, even more so than what Coogler created with it.
At present, Adonis is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, has been forced to retire at the top of his game, engaged to the superstar Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), and the two have a daughter named Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Adonis also works with Little Duke (Wood Harris) at the Delphi Gym, mentoring the next generation of great boxers.
Recently released from prison, Dame (Jonathan Majors) seeks his successful boyhood pal. Dame claims that despite becoming older, his goals have stayed the same, and he still aspires to be a world-class fighter.
As Creed takes his friend to Delphi, Felix Chavez, the reigning champion, hires him to spar with him (Jose Benavidez). Dame has been imprisoned for nearly 20 years, and while Creed informs him that his ambitions will take time, the last thing he would like to do is waste it. “If Apollo Creed takes a chance on an amateur, why can’t you,” Dame tells Creed. Dame had yearned to lead a life of fame and glory before he was imprisoned, as he had seen his old friend become the world champion.
Dame is more interested in a quick route to eventually realizing his objectives than Creed is in helping his comrade achieve his goals. Creed III takes its time to introduce us to the antagonist more than any other Rocky/Creed movie before it, which helps us empathize with Dame’s predicament and his frustration at how Adonis largely ignored his friend while also demonstrating that Creed wasn’t blameless in shaping who Dame would become.
Screenplay writers Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin explore the gray areas in both of these men’s stories in Creed III, which turns this dispute into a highly personal struggle between two men who were previously close friends.
The plot of ‘Creed III
The plot of Creed III is not about boxing; instead, it is about family—both the ones we are born into and those we find—and the sacrifices they make for those whom they care about. Jordan continues to develop this world and gives these characters agency by ensuring that every family member has their moment this time.
While Bianca puts on a smile and claims that she enjoys creating just as much, it is evident that this decision has hurt her. Bianca has given up live performances to preserve her little hearing. Amara, the daughter of Bianca and Creed, is being bullied at school, so Adonis tries to teach her how to defend herself by demonstrating that boxing isn’t about violence; it’s about timing, control, and focus.
The portrayal by Majors, who creates one of the most compelling antagonists in the history of this franchise, is a significant component of what makes Creed III succeed. Majors excel at portraying roles that are both sensitive and emotional while being, in their way, manly and proud.
It’s reasonable that Dame would be angry and frustrated with his circumstances. However, it’s also challenging to appreciate what Majors is pulling off here. He initially plays the role of Adonis’ long-lost brother before gradually revealing his true personality as the original aspect of himself sinks further and more profoundly.
Even when he’s acting his douchiest, it’s hard not to pull for Dame, and this year will unquestionably be the year of Majors thanks to his roles as Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Magazine Dreams, a tense Sundance drama.
With Creed III, director and actor Jordan is given the spotlight in a way that highlights his extraordinary talents while also paying tribute to the past and looking to the future at the weekend box office. Creed III is a breath of fresh air since it prioritizes the family and focuses on their interactions for most of the movie, has fantastic performances from Jordan, Rashad, and Majors, among others, and tries new things in this franchise that is sometimes criticized for being formulaic.