Michael B. Jordan makes a knockout directorial debut with ‘Creed lll’

By Karenna Umscheid, Assistant Living Arts Editor

Michael B. Jordan makes a strong directorial debut—and superbly continues to star—in “Creed III,” the third installment of the sequel series to the “Rocky” films.

“Creed,” the first spin-off, chronicles Adonis Creed being trained by Rocky Balboa, earning respect in the boxing world despite being an extramarital son.

The film follows Adonis Creed, a boxer who is defined by his past, primarily in relation to his last name and family legacy built by Apollo Creed. “Creed III” strays from his famous namesake and focuses more on who Adonis is as a person, entirely separate from his father—how he reconciles with the mistakes of his past, and the subsequent consequences. He grapples the only way he knows how: by getting in the ring. 

As the third sequel of a spin-off film series, the movie could have felt rushed and incomplete, yet the impressive performances and Jordan’s creative directing keep this a worthwhile installment. 

At the start of the film, Creed is a retired heavyweight champion turned famous boxing star without much more to prove to the sports world. 

Jordan really maximizes the blockbuster capabilities of the film, with a fast-paced hip-hop soundtrack, an iconic training montage, flashy fight sequences, and sports media references that only further drive home the stakes of this match. His creative directing explores the themes of the film visually, having a creative impact on the franchise’s legacy. 

His stable life is shaken up when childhood friend Damian Anderson, played by Jonathan Majors, returns from serving a long prison sentence, and asks for help getting back into boxing. Anderson’s return to boxing, however, is driven by anger and revenge towards Creed—it was because Anderson defended Creed in a fight against fighter Felix Chavez that he had to serve time. Anderson is determined to win, and has absolutely nothing to lose. 

Instead of relying solely on the nostalgia that propels the other two films in the series, Jordan’s direction takes more creative liberties. In the final fight scene, he visually explores the guilt of Adonis, expanding towards a more well-rounded character study rather than the underdog story narrative that has driven the franchise since the original “Rocky.” 

The final fight includes shots of Creed and Anderson sitting in their corners oscillating between their bloodied, exhausted selves and their younger child selves. As they throw punches back and forth, the arena becomes an empty stage—the two of them stand alone, knocking each other in the face at exactly the same time. This dramatizes the moment, putting an emphasis on the changed relationship between the two, encouraging them to make amends after the fight is over. 

In the end, Creed claims victory in the fight. In the locker room afterwards, he reconciles with Anderson, apologizing for his role in Anderson’s sentence. They choose to move past it, sweetly repeating their childhood handshake.  

Majors is an absolute star who creates a fascinating rival that evokes sympathy, like many of Rocky’s opponents in the earlier films, but not enough for the audience to root for him. 

Jordan continues to play a character following one of the most beloved, entrancing sports legacies. Where Rocky was rough around the edges and funny in his slight stupidity, Creed is smart, polished, determined, and loving—with absolutely everything to lose. 

In this new film, he is far more than his father’s legacy, but the sportsmanship and kindness Apollo was so beloved for is still so evident in him. The Creed films capitalize on the nostalgia of this, but this installment in particular has strayed far enough from it to really explore who Adonis is outside of being his father’s son. 

“Creed lll,” like its predecessors and original film series, is an inspiring sports film that takes creative (Anime-inspired) liberties and continues to explore Creed’s upbringing and character separate from the legacy he is a part of. This installment encourages mutual respect in and out of the ring, and examines the place that fighting has in Creed’s life as he grapples with raising his daughter and supporting his family while reckoning with his past and legacy.