Creed III Review: Michael B. Jordan Directs A Classic

“Champs gotta start somewhere, right?”- Damian Anderson in Creed 3, 2023

BYZachary Roberts
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Los Angeles Premiere Of "CREED III" - Arrivals

It's this Creed III quote that resonates with audiences after the film has ended. The quote is a bit of a throwaway line for antagonist Damian Anderson, but it holds a special meaning to those who worked on the film.

Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with Creed III. He joins a long list of actor-directors while trying to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with behind and not just in front of the camera (spoilers for the Rocky and Creed franchise ahead).

Anderson spent time locked away in prison after trying to help Adonis Creed. The former pulled out a gun on someone when the latter started a fight with them. Now that he's free, he's eager to prove that he is the champion he was on track to be.

That's when he drops the line to Creed. He wants to be the champ, and even if he's got a late start, it's better than no start. That clearly refers to Anderson's fictional situation, but also mirrors Jordan's own real-life situation.

Jordan's directing was a long time coming

Jordan joined the Creed franchise as an actor in 2015 with Ryan Coogler's Rocky soft reboot. Eight years later, Jordan is in the director's chair for Creed 3 (Creed III). It's the first time the Black Panther star has sat in that seat, but it's hardly noticeable.

The actor's directorial debut comes 22 years after he debuted as a child actor in Hardball. Nevertheless, Oscar-winning directors gotta start somewhere, right?

The film stars up and coming Jonathan Majors opposite Jordan, as well as Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson and Wood Harris, but it's Jordan who shines on and off camera.

Creed III plot summary

Creed III sees the newly retired Adonis Creed enjoying his time off. He's a loving husband to his artist-turned producer wife, Bianca, and a doting father to his deaf daughter, Amara.

He also runs the gym with his former trainer and partner, Little Duke. They work to shape the next generation of boxers and are promoting a fight between their world champion and Viktor Drago, the antagonist from 2018's Creed 2.

When Anderson returns and tells Creed what he wants, there's not much opportunity for it. That is, until Drago befalls an injury and the title bout is now missing a contender.

Enter Anderson, whose nickname was "Diamond Dame", who shows his true colors by boxing as dirty as possible and defeating the world champion, Felix Chavez.

Anderson used a prison-defined body and clever tricks to get the best of Chavez and become the world's champion, but it's Creed that he really wants.

The two, who have a lot of anger and guilt over what transpired in the past and their lives after Anderson went into prison, agree to fight it out despite Rocky's former protege having been retired for three years.

Michael B. Jordan shines as a new director

Michael B. Jordan stepped into the director's chair with the confidence his character showed in his opening fight against Chavez. Creed was in control the entire time and it showed. Behind the camera, Jordan was in control the entire time.

Jordan's style and flair bleed into this movie. It's the most stylish boxing movie perhaps of all time. It's also easily the most fun film to look at in the Rocky franchise.

Speaking of Rocky Balboa, Jordan took on an unenviable task of crafting the first Rocky film without its first star- the Italian Stallion himself. Stallone stepped away because of grievances with producer Irwin Winkler. That could have left a major hole in the movie.

Jordan ensured that hole was never felt. In fact, he went so far as to make this the only movie since the original that could stand alone. Yes, it flows out of the first two Creed movies and the previous six Rocky films, but it's as accessible as the original.

Jordan's directorial flair was on full display

The style and flair that Jordan displays in his first ever film are never more present than in the final fight. This is the most personal fight in the entire franchise. It may only rivaled by Rocky's revenge bout against Ivan Drago for killing Adonis Creed's father (major spoilers ahead) in Rocky IV.

As a result, Jordan made the unique decision to strip everything away. Boxing has always drawn big crowds, but for Anderson and Creed, it was just the two of them.

Jordan showed that visually by putting them in an almost colorless arena with no fans. There was no noise except for the grunts and hits each boxer landed. It perfectly showcased what this fight meant.

At a certain points, the wall of the ring turned into a prison cage like the one Anderson spent 18 years in. Another turned into the walls of the abusive group home the two spent years in.

Creed III was inspired by anime

Jordan discussed this decision with the New York Times, saying that he felt like the void was a perfect visual storytelling medium.

"Back when we would go through our first choreo, every punch would be a line: 'What are we saying in this fight?' That idea always stuck with me, and I just put that on steroids and infused it with anime. There was even a moment where I put subtitles in the void."

Michael B. Jordan via The New York Times

He ultimately decided against the subtitles bit, feeling that it would be too difficult for the audience.

"Yeah, there was no sound: It was completely silent and just subtitles. I was like, 'All right, that’s my artistic side coming out too strong! I got to remember what kind of movie I’m making, that invisible contract that I signed with the audience.' I watched anime all my life, so I could watch and read subtitles at the same time, but a lot of people can’t do that."

Jordan via The New York Times

Creed III: Not perfect, but really close to it

Creed III is not a perfect film. It is arguably the best in the trilogy and could rival the original as someone's favorite, though. There are a lot of factors to that (such as Jonathan Majors giving yet another unbelievable performance), but Jordan's leadership guided this film to an excellent place.

Majors imbues his character with a palpable rage. The audience can feel the anger at being locked up for trying to save Creed while Creed ran and escaped any punishment.

For his credit, this is probably Jordan's best outing as Adonis Creed. The audience feels his emotions with him. The guilt he carries over what happened with Anderson comes right through the screen.

The two give performances as strong as their in-universe characters are. That, combined with excellent directing, makes for what will undoubtedly hold up as one of 2023's best releases. That's high praise for a movie released with almost nine full months remaining in the calendar year.

Given that this movie isn't Oscar-bait in any way, it would be a surprise to see a Best Supporting Actor nomination thrown to Majors or a Best Director nomination for Jordan. However, they're both worthy of unending praise.

Some actors that move into directing don't do much. They might direct a film or two, but most remain actors. Jordan mentioned to the New York Times that he had projects in the pipeline (that he wanted Majors to join him in), so he's absolutely going to be a director to watch in the future.

Unfortunately, he set the bar so high with Creed III. It's hard to envision him topping it. He probably welcomes the challenge, and the audience is absolutely looking forward to it.

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