Michael B. Jordan delivers a knockout punch with his directorial debut in “Creed III,” the latest installment of the “Rocky” spin-off franchise. Reprising his role as the titular character, Adonis Creed, Jordan not only commands the screen with electric swagger and emotional depth, but also directs with confidence and style. He follows in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone, who directed himself in several “Rocky” films, as well as Ryan Coogler, his longtime friend and collaborator, who helmed the original “Creed.” Jordan carries the weight of expectation and pressure with grace, honoring the series’ legacy while pushing the story forward.
While “Creed III” takes a little while to get into the ring, with a necessary flashback to establish the shared history between the main competitors, Jordan’s eye for detail is evident throughout the film. From the minimalist elegance of Adonis’ Hollywood Hills mansion to the use of sign language within his family, Jordan paints a rich and authentic portrait of Adonis’ life outside the ring. Tessa Thompson brings a grounded and sensitive performance as Adonis’ wife and producer, while newcomer Mila Davis-Kent shines brightly in her first major role as their deaf daughter, Amara.
But the film truly heats up with the arrival of Jonathan Majors as Adonis’ childhood friend-turned-adversary, Dame. Majors’ performance is nothing short of tremendous, bringing a volatile energy to the character that simmers beneath his seemingly placid exterior. Jordan’s direction, working in tandem with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau and editors Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson, elevates even the simplest of scenes, conveying layers of subtext and meaning through framing and pacing.
Of course, “Creed III” delivers on the expected training montages and uplifting beats, culminating in a climactic showdown that showcases Jordan’s dazzling stylistic choices in sound design, camera movements, and visual effects. But beyond the sweat and adrenaline, the film is also a touching exploration of family, legacy, and the pursuit of greatness. With “Creed III,” Jordan proves himself not only a formidable leading man, but also a director to watch in the years to come.