Almost 50 years since Sylvester Stallone first swallowed his raw eggs and did cardio on the streets of the franchise spin-off Philadelphia Market; Creed is back in theaters for a third installment. Creed III is the first in the series that Michael B. Jordan has both acted and directed. But it’s also the first iteration not to include Rocky himself. M&F takes a spoiler-free look at whether there’s still life to boxing’s greatest movie series, after Sly.
I probably wouldn’t write this review for Bodybuilding and fitness if I hadn’t been introduced to the Rocky movies as a kid. This is the central message: the idea that each of us, no matter where we start in life, can work towards our potential is an idea that goes beyond cinema or sport. There are countless people who have gone the extra mile or stepped out of their comfort zone due to the lasting effect the Rocky Balboa has had on their psyche. In my day job, interviewing the current crop of super-successful athletes and actors, it’s rare to speak to someone who doesn’t mention that they were definitely touched by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Pumping Iron” or by Sylvester Stallone’s iconic turn as “Rocky.” And yet, with “Creed” now entering its third chapter, we must say goodbye to the “Italian Stallion” and hello to the fully grown Adonis Creed.
Although Stallone doesn’t appear in “Creed III” itself and is only mentioned by name once during the entire two-hour movie, I remember something Stallone said in the final moments of “Creed II,” which makes perfect sense in retrospect. Choosing to stay outside the ring as his shapely student celebrated a triumphant victory over Viktor Drago, the legend uttered “It’s your time now.” It certainly is, and here’s why:
Creed is a hero for the here and now
In his hat and leather jacket, bouncing a ball around Philadelphia Harbor and making ends meet between fights with cash jobs as muscle for a local loan shark, Rocky Balboa was a reflection of the economic climate of the years 70s and early 80s Adonis Creed, however, lays bare entirely new cultural and social issues. And yet both characters underpin the same message in that where you start in life doesn’t necessarily dictate where you end up. Just as there are parallels between Balboa and Creed’s lives, so do their parallels in the actor’s real-life personal journey. For Creed III, Jordan followed in Sly’s footsteps by serving as both actor and director for the first time. “Just an evolution. Growth,” Jordan said of the step up, on the red carpet in Los Angeles. “Acting for as long as I’ve, you know, you start developing an opinion about, like, how things are going and you want to be even more creative, exercise different muscles, you know what I’m
saying? So for me, it’s been very transformative over the years and I’ve done something that I’ve never done before. What can I learn? How can I grow? That’s what I did.” For Adonis Creed to become a complete character, it was necessary for Jordan to take the helm.
Michael B. Jordan reinvented boxing movies
No one has done more for the sport of celluloid boxing than Sylvester Stallone. Who can forget the double knockdown between Rocky and Apollo in ‘Rocky II’ or the violence of ‘Rocky IV’ that sent Stallone straight to intensive care, for real, when he and Dolph Lundgren bumped into daylight in a confrontation that put a mirror on the cold war. Then, in his final match for 2006’s “Rocky Balboa,” Stallone went full circle and scaled back the theater to bring the fight scenes back to reality, using camera angles and choreography that presented a more authentic, just like a real fight shot live for HBO pay-per-view. These scenes won back critics and charted a roadmap that was replicated in “Creed I” and II, so when Jordan started telling people he was inspired by anime action sequences during of the set up fights for “Creed III”, many fans were understandably nervous.
“Yes, I wanted to take some creative turns because it’s the ninth film in the saga,” said the young star, speaking on BBC’s Graham Norton Show. “I had to lean on my love of Japanese animation. And the themes of that, that kind of stuff, make this one feel creative, visual, different. The traditionalists among us will be thrilled to know that ‘there are no over-the-top flying dragon punches, or fireballs being thrown, in these new fights. Instead, Jordan has given new life to the fighters’ ring entrances (watch out for a stunning ringside walk inspired by Felix Chavez’s Day of the Dead played by welterweight, José Benavidez Jr.) and he also took great pains to highlight finer details of the boxing experience, such as big shots of the damage done in the ring, and an added focus on the fighters’ outfits, gloves, and facial expressions.
In “Creed III”, the training montage lives on
We have to accept that Sylvester Stallone can no longer be at the center of the epic workout montage scenes he threw not just in the Rocky movies, but for other movies to borrow, like ‘The Karate Kid,’ ‘Kickboxer “and countless others. Still, it’s good to know that with Michael B. Jordan, testosterone levels remain sky-high as the movies head to an engrossing climax in the ring.
Jordan has worked with his longtime coach Corey Calliet to bring the best version of Adonis Creed to the screen for this third installment, and the two are a winning combination. When I spoke to Calliet after the release of Tom Clancy’s “Red Notice: Without Remorse,” the trainer gave me unique insight into what makes Jordan one of the
Hollywood’s most motivated actors. “Mike would come back from set at 2 or 3 in the morning and we would go straight down to the gym to work out and then he could go to sleep,” he shared. “It’s proud of you because you want to (do the best job) for yourself.”
In “Creed III”, our hero must face his past when he is challenged by former Golden Gloves champion Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (played by man-mountain, Jonathan Majors) who was his best friend. of childhood, but whose life was shot down a less happy path. “This movie is not about one man fighting another man for a world title,” Jordan said in a press release. “It’s about challenging yourself and proving to yourself that your existence is legitimate, that you deserve your blessings, acting with grace for yourself and for others. Believing that you are who you say you are and that everything you’ve done really matters.
Behind the hard-hitting soundtrack and the glare of the ring, Rocky has always been more about hoping for the human spirit than throwing individual punches. And, while it would have been nice for lifelong Stallone fans like me to have only received one small cameo from Balboa, perhaps cheering on his protege from behind a TV screen, the undeniable truth is that the gloves were officially passed to Michael B. Jordan for “Creed III”. Luckily, they couldn’t be in better hands.