Creed III is a nearly perfect continuation of the Creed story if you can ignore one major issue


Via @creedmovie and @michaelbjordan on Instagram

One of the movie posters for Creed III, featuring the titular character.

Most people don’t know this about me, but I am a die-hard Rocky fanatic. I’ve seen them all multiple times—except Rocky V, the worst of the series—so when the Creed franchise was released, I was ecstatic. 

The first Creed film was released in 2015, nearly a decade after the sixth and supposed final Rocky film, Rocky Balboa (2006). From that point on, Michael B. Jordan portrayed the son of Rocky IV’s arguably most integral character, Apollo Creed: Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Creed).

The franchise continued, and the third film of the series was released on March 3 with the fourth movie already in production. In short, the film was incredible, but only when I was able to ignore the one major plot point that made me almost not want to see it in the first place.

Thompson and Majors exhibit an extraordinary ability to each show their entire character through a lens that only they can access.

That plot point? Rocky is nowhere to be seen. Not a reference, not a photo on a mantle, nothing. This, in and of itself, wouldn’t be a problem for me if it weren’t for the fact that Sylvester “Sly” Stallone—the writer, director, and star of the entire Rocky franchise—wasn’t in the film in any way, shape, or form. 

There are a lot of different sources saying different things about Stallone’s absence. Reportedly, Stallone was hurt that he wasn’t invited to be a part of the cast. The specifics of the situation are not known entirely, but here’s the kicker: Stallone doesn’t legally own the rights to the character of Rocky Balboa. Because of this, producer Irwin Winkler, the owner of the franchise rights, had some creative differences from the ideas of Jordan, and Winkler decided that Stallone ultimately would not be involved in the film.

Stallone was forced to sell the rights to Winkler at the very beginning of his career for $100, particularly out of desperation due to financial troubles. He said in an interview that he would have been a lot happier if, after the Rocky films had progressed, Winkler were to acknowledge the fact that these films were Stallone’s pride and joy. Ultimately, after hearing some of the details of Winkler’s decisions, I’m quite opposed to the idea of showing him respect as a producer.

I did my best to forget that part while watching the third Creed film yesterday. Looking at it objectively, the film was one of the best fighting movies I’ve ever seen.

It opens up with a 16-year-old Donnie and his childhood best friend, Damian “Dame” Anderson (Johnathan Majors). After getting into some trouble with some shady people, Dame, a boxer, is arrested. For the next 18 years, he is in prison, and Creed carries on with his life. 

Flash-forward to the present day, Creed has retired from the ring and now runs the Delphi Boxing Academy with the man who had previously coached him to the heavyweight champion title, Tony “Little Duke” Evers Jr., played by Wood Harris. Together, they work with Creed’s protégé, Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (Jose Benavidez), to prepare him for a fight with the Creed II antagonist—and son of the Rocky IV antagonist—Viktor Drago, portrayed by Florian Munteanu. 

Somewhere along the line, Anderson returns to Creed’s life, and after some major conflict with Chavez and others, Creed and Anderson must fight each other. 

Meanwhile, Creed’s mother, wife, and eight-year-old daughter, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) are all dealing with issues of their own. Mary-Anne is struggling with health issues. Bianca, a music producer, has progressive hearing loss, so Amara is fully deaf. 

Amara realizes, over the course of the movie, that she wants to be a boxer like her father and grandfather. Bianca doesn’t want this, so there are some issues between her and Adonis in terms of how to effectively parent their child. 

In terms of the quality of the film itself, it is a phenomenally-made expression of so many different conflicts at once, and it is especially incredible considering the fact that it was Jordan’s directorial debut. 

Not only is Jordan’s directing ability absolutely mind-blowing, but his acting in this film is more than unbelievable in his nuance. Likewise, Thompson and Majors exhibit an extraordinary ability to show their entire character through a lens that only they can access. 

Perhaps my favorite part of the film, though, is the relationship between Creed and his family. Since Amara is deaf, the entire family uses ASL to communicate in front of her. There are Deaf home accommodations used, and it’s such a precious set of interactions between the members of the family. Watching them sign is amazing, mainly because you can clearly see the accents in their signing, and it provides a deeper glimpse into their relationship. 

All in all, Creed III is objectively an outstanding movie, but it’s still disappointing that the original titular character of the storyline wasn’t even mentioned, but looking past that, it was worth every penny.