Film Review: Creed III is a physical and emotional gut-punch that showcases Michael B. Jordan’s strength as a filmmaker

You have to hand it to Michael B. Jordan for even attempting to take on a project like Creed III as his directorial debut.  Considering it’s the third film in a proven franchise – itself an offshoot from a six-strong film series – and it’s coming off the back of offerings from both Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr., one would be right in thinking about Jordan’s own mindset and if this was a decision driven by ego over exploration.

Thankfully, Jordan’s a talent of considerable proportion and has the intelligence to put his ego aside as the face of the franchise and look at Creed III from the outside in.  Now that his Adonis Creed has stepped out of the shadows of both his father and Sylvester Stallone‘s resilient Rocky (the long-running original series star opting out of this go-around, but remaining on as a producer), the character is allowed breathing room and the ability to stand on his own two feet.

With that, and Creed himself in a position as being titled the best in the world, it’s the right time to be knocked off said stable feet, and who better to do so than the imposing nature of Jonathan Majors.  A movie star being formed before our very eyes (in the last two months alone he has dominated the screen in both Magazine Dreams and the latest Ant-Man), Majors, flexing both a subtlety and striking manner throughout, unnervingly enters the fray as Damian “Dame” Anderson, a former “mentor” of sorts who knew Creed in his juvenile youth, the two sharing a brotherly bond as they navigated the system of being moved to different homes.

A young Creed (Thaddeus J. Mixon) looked to Dame (Spence Moore II) with eager eyes as the latter attempted to move his way up in the underground boxing circles.  He wanted to be the champ.  And it’s that mentality that drives him back to Creed in the present day, seeking him out after nearly two decades in prison and hoping to get back on his feet; we learn that an incident from their past, one that young Creed essentially instigated, was what sent Dame away.  As important as this flashback is for narrative and motivational purposes, it does slightly kick Creed III off on a slower note than may be expected, but it doesn’t take long for Jordan and screenwriters Keenan Coogler (Space Jam: A New Legacy) and Zach Baylin (King Richard) to bring us to the present day, where Creed is living the epitome of a life of luxury.

The house is expansive.  The view is enviable.  Retirement definitely agrees with him, as he lives comfortably with daughter Amara (Mila Davis Kent, a joyous presence) and wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson, always striking), who, herself, has retreated from the spotlight of performing to produce music, a career we learn has given her own identity outside of being “Adonis Creed’s wife”, in a Hollywood Hills modernist mansion; the Los Angeles skyline proving the perfect backdrop for a Frog-themed onesie-adorned-Creed and Amara to entertain themselves with adorable tea-parties.

Creed’s existence is violently interrupted though with the reappearance of Dame, feeling guarded in his presence but making him comfortable by extending a helping hand in letting him train and spar at the gym he operates with long-running partner Duke (Wood Harris), where he’s mentoring the next generation of fighters.  Duke doesn’t like the feel of Dame, but he obliges, ultimately setting Dame on a path of emotional and physical destruction.

In a temperament that’s reminiscent of a thriller rather than the sports drama we expect Creed III to adhere to, Jordan injects a nature of unsettling footing when Dame starts to infiltrate Creed’s world.  There’s always an invitation extended, but Dame utilises this to plant doubt or uncertainty in his new surroundings.  We know his endgame is to fight in a champion capacity, so we’re unsurprised of the film’s ultimate footing, but it’s getting there that lends the film a chilling personality at times.  Whilst it’s all too easy to paint Dame as the villain – and Majors is just so damn good embodying that trait – he’s also incredibly relatable in that the chip on his shoulder is justified, and in any other film he might be the underdog we root for (some audience members still might here).

It all comes to a head in the most glorious of fashions though – and of course, a slick training montage that puts the jaw-dropping physiques of both Jordan and Majors on full display – with a Creed v. Dame boxing battle that Jordan crafts with an exciting ease.  He has said that he was inspired by anime fight sequences when framing the set-pieces here, and such inspiration comes through with stunningly manoeuvred arrangements that offset their kinetic pacing with dramatic slow motion flourishes.

Whilst the Rocky and Creed films all follow a certain formula, a rhythm of predictability doesn’t take away this film’s emotional impact.  The sense that Jordan owns this character is palpable, and his directorial prowess only enhances his stronghold on the character; though, expressing his strength as a filmmaker and storyteller, he’s not afraid to put Creed on the backfoot throughout, clearly aware that both Dame as a character and Majors as an actor are two ingredients worthy of being highlighted.


Creed III is screening in Australian theatres from March 2nd, 2023.  It will be released in the United States from March 3rd.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.