The time had to come when it was time to see a new film linked to the Rocky Balboa universe –that endearing boxer of Italian origins created by Sylvester Stallone back in 1976– without the New York-born actor. The opportunity has arrived exactly 47 years after that starting point. And it has been with the third installment of “Creed”, a spin off in which Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed/Carl Weathers (first a rival and then a friend of Rocky), is -paradoxically- saying goodbye to sport that he loves so much.
If we ignore the natural curiosity about the real reasons why Stallone does not appear in this new tape, it is time to specify some valuable details about it. The most likely one is that we are facing the directorial debut of Michel B. Jordan. At the age of 36, the man born in Santa Ana, California, assumes the double role of protagonist and director protected by an emblematic franchise, perhaps one of the ones that has best linked cinema and the ‘sport of flat noses’ throughout of the last decades.
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Now, what tools has Jordan had to work with and how has he used the legacy that Rocky left to present himself as a new director? Next, we will discuss the film released a few months ago in theaters and that has just arrived on streaming thanks to the Prime Video platform.
Those who have closely followed the “Creed” saga will remember that in the previous film the boxer, still advised by an elderly Rocky Balboa, had finished defeating the fearsome Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan, the Soviet mole who bludgeoned his father Apollo to death in “Rocky 4.” The film released in 2018 finished outlining a man full of aspirations, but very marked by that dark past that he faced when he grew up without parents.
Appealing to that past is precisely the hook that triggers “Creed 3″. With Adonis victorious in his farewell fight, head of a beautiful and stable family, and bearer of a reputation as a boxing ‘guarantor of new talent’, our protagonist spends his days in the gym together with the inseparable trainer Duke (Wood Harris). Suddenly, at the end of any day, he finds a hooded man leaning on his luxurious truck. This is Damian Anderson (Jonathan Mayors), an aging ex-partner from the Community Home who during adolescence seemed predestined to be a great value in boxing, but a dark event -in which Adonis was also partially involved- collapsed his plans. .
Perhaps because he got close to glory when he won junior championships, or perhaps because it’s the only thing he knows how to do well, Damian has an obsession: fighting for the world heavyweight championship. Given his age, the very possibility seems irrational to Adonis, but nothing seems strong enough to discourage the ‘reappeared’ character. Here begins to be generated a ‘push and pull’ between the friend/brother from adolescence and the retired businessman. Two extremely opposite personalities that, however, seem united by boxing.
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Climbed into the gym ring to act as sparring partner, Damian violently demolishes everything that comes his way. At this moment, Duke issues a warning to Adonis: “I told you, he comes only with a thirst for revenge.” Perhaps that feeling explains the dark actions that he will soon perform behind the scenes to achieve his goal. As a privileged witness of that friend who today reveals himself as a monster, is the former champion Adonis Creed.
“Creed 3” has some moments that serve as a break from the story of the ‘risen’. None, unfortunately, is strong enough. There is, for example, the bond between Adonis and his mother, (Mary Anne Creed / Phylicia Rashad), marked by an overprotective instinct that reminds us of the one Mickey (Burgess Meredith) had towards Rocky at the beginning of the Stallone saga. . Then comes her wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a singer who –due to the consequences of her incipient hearing loss- is leaving her passion behind to dedicate herself to being a producer. She and Adonis are joined by Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), a deaf-mute girl to whom the script has assigned a role that reflects our protagonist: marked by the school bullying she suffers, she wants to emulate her father and be a boxer, as time to defend well.
There are two details that clearly jump out as the minutes of “Creed 3” progress. First of all, while Rocky is neither present nor mentioned, any fan of the Stallone saga will see similarities between some of the films of the past decade and this last one. But that doesn’t mean Jordan ripped off, not at all. The answer most likely has to do with what we might call “DNA”. Rocky, Adonis, the Dragos or Damian himself all share an immeasurable passion for what they do. For better or for worse, they are all part of a story that we can hardly imagine being told in any other way.
Opening the door to someone who ends up slapping you is very “Rocky 5” (Rocky versus the spoiled boy Tommy Gunn). The virulence and death of a challenger can remind us of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) himself, or perhaps Clubber Lang (Mr. T) in “Rocky 3” (for many the best of the initial saga). And even more obvious, giving a stranger the chance to fight is the same thing that happened in “Rocky 1″ when the ‘Italian Stallion’ was taken out of the underground rings to fight for the world championship belt.
Evaluated as a director, Michael B. Jordan has made a sober debut. He has managed to correctly combine touches of the mystique of the character that inspired it all 47 years ago. His story barely saves the plausibility test (the flashbacks are accurate and provide context). The casting (specifically speaking of Jonathan Majors as at times a deranged villain named Damian Anderson) is spot on.
Then, the way in which he has decided to record the final fight is risky (going from a full grandstand to empty stands and total darkness is a different resource) and can divide opinions. So, due to the aforementioned weaknesses, if it is true that Jordan is looking for one or two more films in the saga, he will have to focus more hard on the stories that surround his core. Because, surely, in his next films he will be judged more harshly than he was evaluated in this debut.
believe 3/ Prime Video:
Director: Michael B. Jordan
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Mayors, Tessa Thompson
Synopsis: After ruling the world of boxing, Adonis Creed has thrived in both his family life and his career. He now puts his future at risk by fighting a fighter, and old friend, who has nothing to lose… and everything to gain.
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“Creed 3”: Michael B. Jordan uses Rocky’s mystique for a sober directorial debut | REVIEW