Michael B. Jordan’s creativity and love for the character make Creed III the biggest opening weekend box office for a sports movie.

“Creed III” (2023) is not only the third installment of the Creed films and the ninth film a part of the Rocky universe but is the directorial debut of the current torch bearer, Michael B. Jordan

The film follows a retired Adonis Creed on top of the world as a family man and boxing promoter. Then, when Creed’s childhood friend Damien suddenly returns, unwanted memories, guilt and envy put the two at odds.

Many, including myself, did not know where the Creed films would go after the first two. After news of Sylvester Stallone being upset with the studio and creative direction, fans of the franchise were left with mixed feelings up to the release of the film.

Despite the drama and doubts about taking over the franchise, Jordan delivered in “Creed III.” Although it borrowed some of the Rocky formula, especially from “Rocky V” (1990) when it comes to retired life, being a family man and the close friend becoming the enemy plot points, Jordan was still able to make the movie his own and told a tight-knit, strong, personal story.

Jordan’s thumbprint in the film shined bright through Creed’s personal problems and the fighting sequences. 

The personal storytelling comes through Creed’s success outside the ring, his family life and his friendship with Damien.

Tessa Thompson, returning as Bianca, and Mila Davis-Kent, playing Creed and Bianca’s daughter Amara, have such a strong family dynamic with Jordan. Since they feel like a real family, you laugh and cry with them thanks to their acting and Jordan’s storytelling.

Phylicia Rashad also returns as Mary-Anne Creed. Just like Thompson and Davis-Kent, Rashad’s chemistry with the other actors of the Creed family helps push the small, personal narratives. Although her role has gotten smaller throughout the films, it never stops her from turning into a solid performance. Her standout scene will definitely draw some tears.

While all three actresses are great in the film and their characters are utilized well, they take the backseat to make way for Jonathan Majors, playing Damian Anderson. 

The troubled friendship between Damien and Creed is the leading force behind the film. Majors’ performance is scene-stealing. While being the “bad guy” of the film, he makes you feel sympathetic for Damian. While you don’t approve of his actions, Majors makes you root for Damian.

As for the boxing sequences, Jordan takes a stylistic approach that is refreshing for this genre and franchise. 

During press conferences, Jordan said he was influenced by anime for the fights and Kramer Morgenthau, the cinematographer, helped achieve that look. The exaggerated lighting showed off the actor’s muscles, sweat flying, the close-ups of the fighters thinking mid-fight and the impact of a punch pulled off the anime in live action.

The final fight — which all boxing films build towards — took some creative risks that worked. While it is helpful to know Jordan was inspired by anime, you can still admire how different the fight scene was compared to other boxing films and how it helps push the personal story forward.

There are only two areas that fall short in the film.

The first is DAZN as the main boxing promotion in the film. To the casual watcher, this won’t be an issue, but to a sports fan like myself, it made some scenes unbearable. It’s obvious how much advertisement they put in the film and their on-air personalities do not bring any flair like Max Kellerman or any of the HBO crew from previous films in the franchise.

Secondly, the soundtrack and score were lackluster. Both Creed II and Creed III have not been able to build upon the music from the first film. Creed I focused on Philadelphia artists like The Roots and Meek Mill and Ludwig Göransson’s score paid homage to Rocky but was different in its own way. Ever since then, the following films haven’t been able to put together a great soundtrack and score.

Overall, as a fan of the boxing genre, sports and the Rocky and Creed franchise, this film checked all the boxes. It was a step in the right direction for the character and franchise, it was creative and it could potentially set a new trend for its fighting scenes, and was a well-written story.

Jordan’s creative risks and care for the character elevated the movie, and I look forward to his next venture as a director.