Creed III: Michael B. Jordan’s Directorial Debut


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Actor Jonathan Majors, actress Tessa Thompson, and actor-director-producer Michael B. Jordan

Paolo Acob, Photo Editor

From acting alongside Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, to directing Creed III, here is a look at Director Michael B. Jordan’s first feature film

Coming a long way from the rocky steps in Philadelphia, the “Rocky” franchise continues forward with our current-day protagonist Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan. The actor additionally plays the son of Apollo Creed, who was Rocky’s opponent in Rocky I & II.

Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, originally wrote the “Rocky” franchise as a passion project, almost as a love letter to Philadelphia. Soon after, his films continued to solidify Rocky as the unofficial mascot of Philly, seeing as Stallone has a statue visible in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps. Even the staircase leading to the museum, notorious for its training scene in the film, is a prime tourist attraction.

As Rocky’s story seemed to conclude, young Bay Area director, Ryan Coogler, picked up the story again after “Rocky Balboa” in 2006, with “Creed” in 2015, which follows Adonis Creed, and his journey to become boxing’s next big name. 

The 2018 film, “Creed II” followed the athlete in navigating through his marriage with Tessa Thompson’s character, Bianca Taylor as  he aims to protect his title as the Heavyweight Champion of the World from Viktor Drago. “Creed III,” now the biggest opening film in the Creed trilogy making $58.7 million in North America and $41.8 million internationally, has received heavy praise from critics and audiences alike, which is a high stature for a directorial debut.

Unfortunately, experiencing none of the success would be the actor himself, Sylvester Stallone — the actual Rocky — as he continues to feud with franchise producer Irwin Winkler. The producer is looking to expand on Viktor Drago’s character and his father Ivan Drago from Rocky IV in a new spinoff starring Florian Munteanu and Dolph Lundgren. 

Stallone often expresses his resentment towards the rights of his beloved character, Rocky. In an interview with Variety, the actor noted,  “I have zero ownership of Rocky. Every word, every syllable, every grammatical error was all my fault. It was shocking that it never came to be, but I was told, ‘Hey, you got paid, so what are you complaining about?’ I was furious,” making this the first film in the “Rocky” franchise without the beloved actor.

In trailblazing a new path, years after his fight against Drago in Creed II, Michael B. Jordan’s direction provides viewers with  a new perspective on the boxer as he arranges boxing fights, coaches new fighters, and experiences fatherhood for the first time. This time around, Jordan’s performance as Creed was versatile and expressive with more life experiences to explore compared to the previous installments. 

Through the direction derived from his own work, his relationship with previous director Ryan Coogler, and his love for anime, the picture felt like a passion project. 

The film is a transformative piece for the franchise, creating nuanced context to Adonis Creed’s motivations through audience flashbacks of his early life related to his shenanigans with Damian Anderson, a childhood friend.

As Newcomer Jonathon Majors enters the ring, fresh from “Antman and The Wasp: Quantumania,” the “Lovecraft Country” star plays Damian “Diamond” Anderson, a now institutionalized man recently freed from his time in prison and anticipating new opportunities in the boxing world alongside Creed. 

Majors simultaneously provides Damian a sense of hopelessness and optimism, and although Damian’s childhood and adulthood were nearly robbed due to years in prison, he still continues to pursue what he is passionate about years after his incarceration.

Tessa Thompson also reprises her role as Bianca Taylor, who has been happily married to Creed for years now with their daughter, Amara. While Creed retired from boxing, Taylor also took a break from singing in hopes of preserving her hearing and settled on a career in producing music. Although the character, Taylor, did seem different compared to the previous films — a woman rich and proud in her Philly culture and mannerisms — none of that comes to light in this film.

Perhaps throughout the years since the couple moved to Los Angeles, CA, her character  may have changed due to stardom and high success, but small nuances like explaining to Creed what a “jawn” is in the first film, allows for a specific demographic to uniquely connect to the film, which was lacking, this time around.

Jordan, Majors, and Thompson were phenomenal in presenting audiences with characters that experienced struggles and overcame their trials and tribulations. Bianca struggled in accepting the outcome of her career, leaving her questioning whether she can continue to perform. 

Damian struggled in adapting back into the normal world after the four walls were, wrongfully, his environment for the past 18 years. Adonis found communication to be the most difficult part of being an adult, exploring themes of repression in times of reflection, especially if some memories are harder to remember than others. 

In its stellar writing and directing, the film was able to become more than just a boxing flick. Transcending the boxing genre, the film: incorporated sign language and subtitles as a main form of communication; explored institutionalization; and combated negative mental health stigmas through clear communication amidst vulnerability. In doing so, “Creed III” proves to be an accessible and progressive film, leaving audiences feeling more than accomplishment after its conclusion. All-in-all, Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut is to be taken seriously, as this film is definitely worth the ride.