Creed III's Trailer Looks Like It's Calling Back To Rocky V In A Big Way, And This Actually Excites Me

Michael B. Jordan in Creed III and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky V, pictured side-by-side.
(Image credit: MGM)

The wait for our first official look at actor/director Michael B. Jordan’s Creed III has finally ended. Since the trailer for Adonis Creed’s next outing has further confirmed the film to be one of the biggest 2023 new movie releases, the wait for it just got even harder. Strangely enough, the hype for this new movie comes from an interesting callback to a boxing flick that couldn’t be less hyped if it tried: Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky V.

Trust me, the comparison is actually a good thing, as Creed III looks to be taking a very similar concept from that much-maligned film and giving it an interesting new spin. I’ll walk you through why these developments have me amped for Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut. Before I do that though, you can check out the trailer for yourself:

Clearly, there’s a lot more going on in this footage than just Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors looking massive. Though that fact certainly helps sell the threat present in Creed III, which is part of the full formula we’re about to discuss. So let’s kick things off with a discussion of how invoking the perennially worst ranked Rocky sequel can be a good thing.

Sylvester Stallone stands worried in front of some X-rays in Rocky V.

(Image credit: MGM)

How Does Creed III Calls Back To Rocky V?

Creed III is a bit of a callback to Rocky V mostly because it follows up 2018's Creed II by having Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B, Jordan) return to the ring to fight his past. Literally, his old friend Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) has just gotten out of prison, and has a score to settle. However, that’s not the link to Rocky Balboa’s fifth round at the box office. 

Rather, in this third Creed installment, we’re seeing Adonis going back into the ring after risking his life to defeat Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) in the previous film. Just as Rocky V gave Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) the choice of retiring or potentially dying in the ring, Creed II had Adonis Creed facing that same choice. After winning the rematch against Viktor, it felt like it would take a really good reason for him to ever return to boxing.

Jonathan Majors menacingly enters the ring in Creed III.

(Image credit: MGM)

Jonathan Majors’ Damian Gives Adonis Creed The Best Reasons He’d Need To Fight Again

Even while covering Creed II during its release and press day, that was the big question on my mind. What would it take to get Adonis Creed back in the ring, or for his then fiancee Bianca (Tessa Thompson) to even allow him to risk it all again? When the threequel was eventually announced, that query continued to float around in my head, and I wasn’t sure there would ever be a satisfying answer. And then Jonathan Majors swaggered onto the screen -- and proved me wrong in the best way possible.

As we see in the trailer above, Damian “Dame” Anderson lives up to the infamy his first name has carried ever since The Omen. He is hungry for the life that his old friend Adonis has built for himself, and he’s not above potentially killing a man in the ring to get it. Through this villainy, Creed III has given Donnie the best reason to fight again. This is no longer a series about sporting victories or title belts, it’s about good and evil. 

This isn’t like Rocky V, where Rocky Balboa fought to settle some sports-fueled grudges, as well as pay some bills. Adonis Creed is well to do and has everything to lose if he’s bested by Damian and his trauma-induced body. At the same time, his old friend/new enemy is looking to be the apex predator of the boxing world; and the only way to stop that sort of hunt is to beat the beast at its own game.

Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson share a serious conversation in Creed III.

(Image credit: MGM)

Bianca Is On Board With Creed III Placing Its Hero Back In The Ring

Perhaps the greatest moment of hype in the new trailer comes from one line of dialogue uttered by Tessa Thompson’s Bianca. Looking back to the previous film, her worry of losing Donnie in the ring caused some massive disagreements, and made for some of the most effective drama in director Steven Caple Jr.’s sequel. It’s why the question of how Bianca could let Adonis back in the ring was so important, especially now that we’ve seen the two living a good life with their daughter. 

It only took one line to address that concern, and it comes from a moment in which Michael B. Jordan’s fighting hero doesn’t know how to handle a rapidly deteriorating situation. Acknowledging he’s “past talking,” Thompson's Bianca lays down the following solution: 

Then maybe you just have to fight him.

To get the full effect, you really need to watch Creed III’s trailer and hear the actress herself say the words. It’s a powerful moment where she takes agency in the discussion, as Adonis and Bianca were always going to have to agree on this course of action. With that line, Tessa Thompson’s character isn’t just agreeing or giving permission, she’s lighting the fuse. 

While it’s not currently unclear as to whether that Rocky V DNA will rear its head again, giving this couple their own blow out fight that ultimately leads to making up, it looks like the next Creed movie is skipping the marital drama. As it stands, Adonis and Bianca are a team when it comes to this call, and that should be Damian’s first sign that he’s in trouble.

I couldn’t have imagined that Creed III would deliver such a satisfying wrinkle to the conundrum of how to get Adonis Creed back in the fight. Even better is the fact that Jonathan Majors’ Damian Anderson looks like the perfect mix of a villain that’s personally motivated, but still somewhat relatable. All it took was a novel spin on the legacy of Rocky V, and maybe some of Rocky IV’s conflicts as well, to make for a show-stopping tease for the future.

Which means it’s my absolute displeasure to remind us all that United Artists Releasing and MGM have set Creed III for a theatrical debut on March 23, 2023. Though if you want to see Jonathan Majors playing a hero again, you won’t have to wait too long for the chance. The upcoming movie Devotion stars Majors and Top Gun: Maverick’s Glen Powell as aviators in the Korean War and is set to open on November 23. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.