Over the weekend, I took myself on a Sher Date to watch Creed III, starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and newcomer to the franchise Jonathan Majors. Noticeably absent with no explanation (at least not one that I caught) was Sylvester Stallone.
This was odd considering his character, Rocky Balboa, of course, played a pivotal role in Adonis “Donnie” Creed becoming a boxing champ in Creed and Creed II. I remember watching the original in Regal Theater in Union Square worried that they were going to kill him off with the out-of-nowhere cancer storyline. I understand that writers needed a catalyst to motivate Adonis. “You fight, I fight,” he told Rocky when Rocky initially refused cancer treatment. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the theater boogey crying, triggered by the cancer storyline.
In Creed 3, there was another trope, which I did see coming, and I was unhappy about it. I guessed when it happened in the film, even before the official reveal. When I watched it then and even now, a day later, I don’t understand why that particular tragedy had to unfold. Even if they milk out another sequel, does the actor not want to return? As for the storyline, it’s not like Adonis wasn’t dealing with enough stress with the re-emergence of his childhood friend, fresh out of prison after serving 18 years.
The tension between Damian “Dame” Anderson and Adonis is palpable as Dame feels as if he’s watched Adonis live the life he should’ve led. It was he who allowed Adonis to tag along and tote his boxing gear to his fights. Never mind that Adonis is the son of boxing champion Apollo Creed. The late boxer wasn’t around to impart his knowledge to “Baby Creed,” but Dame’s blinding anger (and ego) leads him to believe that Adonis owes him, especially since both share humble beginnings of living in a group home together.
While the two former friends pick up 18 years after their split, the film itself picks up several years after the sequel. Adonis and wife Bianca’s hearing-impaired baby daughter, played by Mila Davis-Kent, is now at least 9 or 10, and is aware what her father used to do. The family, including Phylicia Rashad’s character, communicate via ASL (American sign language) with the little girl, who is deaf in real life. Coincidentally, the showing I attended had closed captioning, a first for me. Adonis is retired and runs a boxing gym. He drives a fancy car, is featured on billboard endorsements, and lives in a huge mansion decorated with his boxing career paraphernalia. His wife Bianca is now a big-time song writer and producer with a studio in their expansive home. There’s a scene where Khelani is singing a song written by Bianca.
I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with the storyline, a friends-to-adversaries trope. By no means is it threadbare as I had feared. I admit I rewatched Creed and Creed II over the weekend in anticipation of watching Creed III to continue blessing my eyeballs with beautifully melanated pectorals, tight sweaty abs, and strong jawlines resting in handsome faces. I didn’t expect much of a plot and had made peace with that, but I was wrong.
Sidebar: Jonathan Majors is the only reason I paid a (matinee) ticket to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. I did not like the original Ant-Man and finally watched the second on Disney+ in preparation for the third. I’m happy Majors was blessed with an MCU check, but throw the whole Ant-Man trilogy away. Sorry, Paul Rudd. But if it comes down to the Thor movies or Ant-Man, we can keep Ant-Man.
But I digress. Knowing Hollywood, I wouldn’t be surprised if aspects of the storyline were adapted from an obscure or well-known historical boxer. I don’t care enough to look it up and possibly slide down a rabbit hole just like I don’t want to look up why Stallone didn’t make at least a 10-second cameo appearance. I didn’t catch his name as a producer in the credits either. Characters, like Drago, from the previous films did make appearances. I would’ve been oblivious had I not rewatched the night before.
Kudos to Michael Bae Jordan on his directorial debut. Publicity leading up to the release of Creed III was a frenzy. Jordan and Majors were everywhere, much to the chagrin of haters and to my delight. Calvin Klein strategically released an ad campaign with Jordan as did Ralph Lauren. Whether suited or barely clothed in magazine spreads, talk shows, red carpets, and hosting SNL, all the men’s appearances were thirst traps as far as I’m concerned. Although the Regal Theater where I watched (also same theater I saw the original) was nearly empty, opening weekend box office sales were $56.8M. It was the number one movie in the country, and the biggest opening for the Creed and Rocky movies.
Financial success aside, I’m happy to see the bromance that sprouted and fostered between Jordan and Majors. I don’t think it’s manufactured to push the movie. It looks as authentic as Jordan’s ongoing friendship with Ryan Coogler, who directed him in Fruitvale Station, the first two Creeds, and both Black Panthers. I spotted Coogler on the red carpet for Creed III and he was present for Jordan’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame celebration. Michael also seemed to have a genuine friendship with co-star, the late Chadwick Boseman. I was wrecked by his passing. I can only imagine how Jordan felt. I loved the clips of them together jet-setting the world promoting Black Panther.
I enjoyed every sweaty and bloody punch in Creed 3. I flashbacked to watching boxing with my father and the boys. Good storyline, good acting (especially Majors’ angry brooding self), and can we talk about the filming and editing of the final fight? Goodness gracious. It was almost animated, video game-like. The slow-mo, tunnel vision, the cage, disappearance of the crowd yet a still audible, muffled cheering. I sat up in my seat. Yeah, it’s a boxing movie, but there’s also love, friendship, family…and fineness.
This was a delight to read. Such a gifted Writer. I’m excited to go see the film.