Since the first Creed movie came out their links to the original Rocky franchise that inspired the spinoffs have started to thin, but there’s still something about an underdog’s fight to get to the top (and the training montages that come with it) that keeps us coming back to the story of Adonis Creed.
Played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Just Mercy) Adonis is the son of Apollo Creed – Rocky’s nemesis – and in Creed III his childhood friend Damian (Jonathan Majors) comes back into his life after 18years in prison. Threatening to contest Adonis’ achievements as he tries to make up for lost time and realise the potential of his incarcerated youth, Damian tests the friends’ brotherhood as he forces Adonis to revisit a history he’s worked hard to forget.
As with a lot of sports-based movies the plot is fairly easy to predict, but what’s surprising about Creed III is the emphasis it puts on Adonis’ need to open up about his past instead of squashing it down.
He and his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are at a stage of life and marriage where they’ve got a few runs on the board: they’ve seen dreams come and go, dealt with the diagnosis of their deaf daughter Amara and felt the responsibility of caring for Adonis’ widowed mother.
Damian’s return puts pressure on Adonis’ already heavy load, and the biggest admission he has to make is that he can’t do it alone – and it isn’t always easy.
Creed III certainly has some scenes reminiscent of a Kong vs. Godzilla battle as oiled-up hulk-bros fight it out in the ring and roar into the void of Los Angeles mountains as they train on their peaks, but there’s more to it than that.
In an art-scape increasingly (and justifiably) giving attention to the stories of women and under-represented social groups, this movie takes a moment to look into the heart of men.
Every part of Adonis’ life is asking something of him: the elite sports world want to track his retirement successes, his wife wants emotional intimacy, his daughter wants to learn from him and now Damian wants to lean into their past loyalty to get a leg up.
The load Adonis carries is not light, and it’s not unfamiliar.
Creed III is not a “woe is me” story by any stretch – nor is it trying to beat the drum of the “forgotten alpha male” – but it does remind us that a man’s silence doesn’t equal his satisfaction. And that the elevation of other voices doesn’t mean the present concerns of men trying to be a healthy dad, brother, friend, husband and leader have diminished – they’re just given less attention now.
Creed III isn’t a movie trying to start a movement, but there’s something genuinely refreshing about a story combining the fun of sports fanaticism with a message about forgiveness, pride and loyalty that gives its predominantly male fan-base permission to be both invincible and vulnerable, defiant and gentle.
Creed III is in cinemas now.
About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.
Feature image: Film publicity