Creed III Review: Is It Too Early To Say 2023 Is The Year Of Jonathan Majors?

Michael B. Jordan makes a terrific directorial debut

Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors touch gloves in Creed III
(Image: © MGM)

We are just two months into the year 2023, and already cinema has successfully imparted a message that will not soon fade from thought: Jonathan Majors is a phenomenal actor. The educational campaign began at the Sundance Film Festival where audiences first witnessed the star have his Travis Bickle moment in the bodybuilding drama Elijah Bynum’s Magazine Dreams. A few weeks later, movie-goers the world over got to meet the terrifying Kang The Conqueror in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, and he is far and away the best thing about that blockbuster. Now, Michael B. Jordan’s Creed III has arrived, and just when you thought that Majors was already firmly cemented as a bona fide star, he pours down another layer of concrete with yet another stunning performance.

Creed III

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed in Creed III

(Image credit: MGM)

Release Date: March 3, 2023
Directed By: Michael B. Jordan
Written By: Keenan Coogler & Zach Baylin and Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, and Phylicia Rashad
Rating: PG-13 (intense sports action, violence and some strong language)
Runtime: 116 minutes

As Damian “Dame” Anderson, he is an unstoppable force in the new boxing film – but what makes the Creed sequel particularly special is that he collides with his equal number in the form of Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed. The result is explosive, emotional, and entertaining character drama that’s embedded in a strong story brought to life with instantly apparent talent from a first time director. Creed III is a well-rounded and smart sequel that builds on what came before in the series while introducing an independent narrative that perfectly lets the movie stand on its own.

The film brings us back into the world at a key point in the life of Adonis Creed: retirement. Following a successful heavyweight championship bout in 2017, the protagonist has decided to step out of the ring and focus on developing the next generation of great fighters out of his gym in Los Angeles. He lives a happy and satisfied life with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Then Damian Anderson arrives like a wrecking ball.

Damian and Adonis were like brothers growing up together in a group home, the latter helping the former become a young Golden Gloves champion with a bright future, but they grew distant when Damian was sent to prison for 18 years. Following his release, he tracks Adonis down and informs him that he still intends to reach the goal he set for himself as a kid: he wants to be the heavyweight champion of the world. The retired boxer agrees to let his old friend train at his gym, while being realistic about the lack of chances at his age – but in doing so, he underestimates just how far Damian is willing to go to achieve his dream.

Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors make a powerful, clashing duo that defines intense stakes for the story.

As Creed III unfolds, astute audiences won’t be particularly surprised by the narrative turns that are executed – and not just because the marketing for the movie has done nothing to hide the fact that Adonis eventually makes the decision to come out of retirement to face Damian in the ring. That being said, you’re fully invested by the empathy and hunger of the characters and the verisimilitude that they individually bring to the plot’s stakes through emotion alone. The story beats are familiar, but the film earns them with a compelling battle between protagonist and antagonist that is chock full of gray morality.

Michael B. Jordan instills Adonis with a vital earnestness and confidence, and the actor does fascinating work as the character is confronted with demons from his past that contradict those important elements of himself. The subtleties of the performance allow the audience to see cracks in his stoicism, and his inner turmoil is palpable and powerful.

And Jonathan Majors has the energy as Damian to disrupt everything. Like Adonis, he is also self-possessed and collected, but deep in his eyes you can register the rage and resentment he has inside – and it’s fierce passion that is actually downright charismatic. Dame is a dirty fighter in the ring, making him a challenge to fully respect, but he also earns a great deal of empathy as his full history with Adonis is brought to light, and there is probably going to be a percentage of the audience that sides with his perspective over the protagonist’s (which, it’s worth noting, is an impressively ego-less development considering the lead of the film is also the director).

With his directorial debut, Michael B. Jordan demonstrates flair and delivers excitement.

What makes Michael B. Jordan’s work in front of the camera only more admirable is recognizing the skilled work that he does behind it. As an actor-cum-director, it’s not altogether surprising that he demonstrates a gift for capturing the emotions of his cast, but what does come across as special is an embrace of cinematic flair. In some instances it’s small things – like touches of mid-fight slo-mo, and a POV shot when Amara decks one of her classmates – but he also takes some big swings that connect in the third act match between Adonis and Damian.

Jordan has been working with talented filmmakers for a very long time, from his run as a kid on The Wire to making movies with Ryan Coogler and Destin Daniel Cretton, and he has clearly learned a lot.

Creed III is a satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy that still keeps open a door for an interesting future.

With the film featuring the titular character’s (albeit temporary) retirement and repeatedly pointing out that he is too old to stay in the ring for much longer, the future of the big screen boxing series isn’t made totally clear – though it does present a possible avenue for an eventual spin-off a la the Creed movies’ relationship with Rocky. Even if this is the end, however, the franchise is going out on a terrific high note. Creed III is a blast and an excellent trilogy conclusion that lets everyone involved shine brightly.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.