The Creed franchise is a tribute to Rocky Balboa’s legacy not only in terms of boxing but also in terms of the portrayal of the highs and lows of relationships and life itself. How the lead character makes his way through training of the body and mind while emotional challenges are thrown his way alongside real ones is what makes the character so palpable. Michael B. Jordan has already established himself as the worthy son of Apollo Creed, Adonis, all thanks to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, who trained him. With Rocky being Adonis’s father’s best friend, there was a certain pull that we as the audience felt towards the Creed films (“Creed” and “Creed II”) that carried in them the soul of a friendship that goes back more than 40 years. But “Creed III” will be different.
The previous two Creed films stressed more on love and family. Creed III makes things perhaps equally personal, if not more, for Adonis by bringing him face to face with an old friend from a dark childhood, Damien Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Directed by Michael B. Jordan himself, with writers Ryan Coogler (the director of “Creed”), Keenan Coogler, and Zach Baylin, “Creed III” will show Adonis getting out of the shadows of his master, Rocky Balboa. He has been basking in the glory of his victories all this while until a face from the past returns and brings back fear and guilt that he has buried deep inside his heart. Moreover, it seems that Damien is a former boxing prodigy who went behind bars for some felony. He returns after 18 years to remind Adonis of who the real champion is.
Guilt can stay with a person forever. “Creed III” plays on this theme. Adonis and Damien share a friendship that involves crimes and cops. They were juveniles, but apparently, Adonis found his way out and grew up into the champion we know today. But things turned out differently for Damien. From the looks of the trailer, it seems that Damien might be holding Adonis responsible for what happened to him. And Adonis, too, might be carrying the guilt for a long time. With Damien now back, Adonis not only has to face him but also has to come to terms with his own guilt. There is a heavyweight of friendship that weighs down on Adonis, but he will have to stand up to Damien to do the right thing. And if that means a fight, so be it.
Sylvester Stallone confirmed that he wouldn’t be back for the third installment of “Creed,” due out in spring 2021. This certainly posed the question of who will replace his character. The creative choice to bring in another strong aspect of Adonis’s past, which ran parallel to the one that connected him to his father, is traditionally on point and commendable. And to bring on board Jonathan Majors is the best thing to happen to the franchise after Sylvester Stallone himself. One is, from here on, allowed to wonder what it would have been like if Jonathan had played the role of Adonis and not Michael. Jonathan has proved his strength as an actor with performances in “Hostiles” (2017), “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (2019), “Lovecraft Country” (2020), and “Da 5 Bloods” (2020), among others. Furthermore, introducing an opponent who comes from the same cultural background adds another layer to the film’s psychology.
“Creed III” is not about seeking revenge from the past. The journey is about making peace with the past. The trailer itself says that “there’s no enemy like the past.” And this time, it’s much more than winning a fight. It’s winning a friend back.
“Creed III” arrives exclusively in theaters on March 3, 2023.