ichael B. Jordan multitasks with glorious finesse in Creed III, the third installment of the Rocky spinoff and ninth edition of the perennial boxing film franchise. The first time director leads a perfectly-paced masterpiece of storytelling from frame one to the end, deftly balancing a bounty of deeply moving ensemble performances—not least of which his own as Adonis “Donny” Creed and that of Jonathan Majors as childhood friend-now-adversary Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson. We follow Donny as the world champion boxer navigates post-retirement life, and follow Dame as the could-have-been contender navigating post-incarceration after an 18-year stretch.
Tessa Thompson returns as Donny’s wife, Bianca, along with Phylicia Rashad as his adoptive mother, Mary-Anne Creed, and scene-stealing, nine-year-old newcomer Mila Davis-Kent as daughter Amara, the baby girl whom Donny and Bianca welcomed in the second Creed.
Delightful Davis-Kent portrays her character, who is deaf due to inheriting her mother’s degenerative hearing condition, entirely in sign language (ASL). Thompson learned ASL to communicate with her on-screen daughter. Speaking with Complex about the need for genuine representation in the film, Thompson said it was important to her, even in with Bianca experiencing degenerative hearing loss, that her character’s hearing not go totally away:
“I did not feel comfortable in telling that story. I’m not a member of the Deaf community,” she shared. “I really felt like if we wanted to tell that story, we should do it with someone who is a part of that community.”
Moviegoers find recording star Bianca wearing a producer hat these days, writing hits for other artists, and enjoying a family life with Donny, Amara and Mary-Anne. Dame senses a flicker of sadness in Bianca, having left live performance behind to protect the hearing she has left, at once relating to her and also manipulatively attempting to stir discord.
Creed III‘s biggest takeaways for filmgoers will be far less about whether Donny or Dame wins or loses in the ring, but whether and how each of these men will sustain the fights within themselves. We see champion Donny wrestling with whether or not to stay retired, tussling with longtime trainer Tony “Little Duke” Evers (Wood Harris) and struggling at times to show love as a husband. We meet once-boxing phenom Dame, fresh out of prison, chiseled and chasing what’s left of his dreams to go pro and win the belt.
The story takes viewers back in time to meet young Donny (Thaddeus J. Mixon) and young Dame (Spence Moore II), providing an engaging enough backstory to clearly-root each character’s present motivations, and yet, keep a forward-feeling rhythm. Some may knock Creed III’s bits of requisite Hollywood predictability, but the riveting work of Creed III‘s veteran stars and emerging young actors far outweigh such critique.
Catch Creed III in theaters on the big screens. Not only does the rich cinematography and knockout blows you can feel in your own gut call for it, but also to experience its brilliant emotional nuances. It’s the small things: a key second of a lingering reaction, subtle lighting cues, and layered reveals. Among other storytelling devices, some unexpected and tasteful special visual effects enhance an already solid ride.
Creed III is in theaters now, featuring Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Mila Davis-Kent, Spence Moore II, Thaddeus J. Mixon, Florian Munteanu, Canelo Álvarez, Jacob Duran, Jessica McCaskill, Pete Penuel, Tony Bellew, Selenis Leyva, Teófimo López and Michelle Davidson.