I am going to admit something that may get me barred from all future Philadelphia events but I need to be honest with you reader… I’ve never seen Rocky. Not a single one, not even Rocky Balboa. But what I have seen is Creed which for its first two films served as almost a requel (remake/sequel) for the franchise. But Adonis Creed doesn’t hang under the shadow of Rocky Balboa any longer, Creed III proves that the series has moved past its predecessor into something totally new. With Michael B. Jordan in the director’s seat and the lead role, he has used his anime influences to make a powerful film about connection and proving yourself.
In Creed III, Adonis Creed is thriving in his career and family life. After hanging up the gloves for what he thought would be his last fight, a lost friend from his childhood returns when Damian, a former boxing prodigy, resurfaces after serving time in prison. Damian is hungry for the chance to get back to the top. Quickly the two leads go from friends to bitter rivals as they should in any good anime. The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put everything on the line to battle Damian — a fighter who has nothing to lose.
Without the original Rocky films to compare the film to, I only have what Michael B Jordan says inspired him as a director for Creed III: anime. As readers of the site may know, I am a new fan of anime, but there has been one series I’ve loved for a long time which is Dragon Ball Z. Jordan has said that this was one of the influences on his directing of the fight scenes of the film. There is one punch that I almost jumped out of my seat to yell “THAT WAS A GOKU PUNCH” like I was in 3rd grade with my friends. Jordan brings such a flair to every fight in the film to make something truly visually striking. The camera angles employed by Jordan and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau hook you to the movement of each fighter. Each punch and dodge is so clear from the angles they pull the camera in at. There are uses of slow-mo in the film that never feel cheap but exhilarated me to see how the hit would land. But more than that, Jordan’s directing style brings a lot of emotional weight to the film.
With a story about rivals, what is most important is the why. Why two forces are opposed to one another or why two friends could be battling one another for dominance is a huge emotional driving factor to a story. With Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) in Creed III, there is a lot of history and feeling that leads to their triumphant final battle. It was like watching Naruto and Sasuke face off against one another at the end of the series because you can see deep down how much Naruto loves his friend but he is too blinded by anger to see clearly. Majors’ performance is nuanced and quiet at points that shows you a man in so much pain from the things that he has been through. You understand why he’s so angry and striking out the only way he knows how. It’s a powerful story of two men who cannot speak about their feelings because the only tools they know how to use to express themselves is their fists.
Michael B. Jordan understands that because there are so many moments in Creed III where we get a lot of quiet parallel shots of the two men. Despite both of them knowing what the other may be thinking or how they feel, they cannot say a thing because they don’t know how. So much of the film revolves around the theme of communication or the lack there of. There is a lot of intimacy between the friends that lingers in a space where there is nothing left but anger. One shot in particular that has stuck with me is a frame of both Creed and Damian on screen but appear separated in different lighting. It’s brilliant because there is so much tension between them despite Jordan’s character only wanting to make up for how he feels he wronged Majors. It’s proof that Jordan is working on another level with Creed III that I didn’t see in the first two films. It’s a very intimate and sad film where the lack of communication leads to turmoil.
The final fight scene uses story telling elements and visuals that I have not seen utilized in any other sports film because the writers and director know how to use the situation to show the story. It raises the emotional stakes of everything they are fighting for in just a heightened moment that is driven with such an interesting use of visual motifs. I don’t want to spoil it because it feels like the height of the anime influence in the film that is used to make something truly unique.
Despite never seeing the Rocky films, I can see how Creed III shrugs off the towel that the series had used to wipe its sweat before to deliver a film with its own unique identity. With brilliant direction from Michael B. Jordan, a rivalry for the ages with Adonis and Damian, and the heavy anime influenced fights, Creed III crafts a truly next level sports