Two fighters facing off in the ring with ref between them

Creed III is the latest Rocky spin-off franchise installment. Michael B. Jordan, making his directorial debut, continues the legacy as Adonis Creed, the son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed. He is continuing Ryan Coogler's established story. Due to creative differences, Sylvester Stallone, who stars in Creed and Creed II as Creed's mentor, is not in this. It's nice to see how Creed deals with obstacles, mostly on his own and with help from his family in this aspect of his life. I'll admit, it's safe to say the franchise can stand independently without Rocky.

The story picks up with Michael B. Jordan as Adonis "Donnie" Creed, who has retired from professional boxing and is now a successful gym owner and ambassador for the sport. He enjoys a happy family life with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), now music producer, daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), and Mother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). However, his world is turned upside down when his childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian "Dame" Anderson (Jonathan Majors), is released from prison after almost two decades and seeks a title shot in the boxing ring. Creed, plagued with guilt for feeling responsible for Dame's imprisonment, gives him a place in his gym as a sparring partner for heavyweight contender Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez). But their past and present collide, leading to a rivalry that can only be resolved in the ring.

The adrenalin-pumping boxing sequences will keep you on the edge of your seat. Kramer Morgenthau's cinematography, coupled with Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson's editing, captures the emotion and intensity of each fight, which enhances the story's drama. It's challenging to reinvent boxing choreography, but Jordan brings a new flare to the genre. Dragon Ball Z fans might notice a few familiar fighting techniques.

The climactic final fight scene between Creed and Dame takes an interesting creative turn by removing the crowd, which creates a sense of isolation that intensifies the emotional state of the characters. Both struggle with their past demons, believing that winning the fight will erase their painful memories and bring closure to their complicated relationship.

The film tackles themes about family, responsibility, guilt, and letting go of past failures. Adonis hides parts of his past from his family and struggles to come to terms with his childhood fears and traumas, which he projects onto his daughter. His daughter Amara is also interested in boxing and has been getting into fights at school, a subplot that could've used additional screen time. This includes Creed's mother, Mary-Anne, who is facing health problems which felt like an unnecessary approach to incorporate another layer of emotional weight into the story.

It's worth noting the film does have the classic Rocky training montage. While the film tries to distance itself from the character of Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone's character is noticeably absent from a specific moment where it would have made the most sense to include him.

The film starts slow, with minor pacing issues throughout. The writing has predictable, formulaic elements, and some storylines work better than others. A couple of aspects of the final act feel slightly rushed.

The film's soundtrack, executive produced by J Cole, perfectly complements the propulsive and immersive boxing scenes, forming an invigorating soundtrack and score.

Creed III is another knockout in the franchise. This film doesn't quite reach the heights of the first, but it's still an improvement from Creed II, which I thought was nonetheless a good film. Michael B Jordan impresses in his directorial debut. Creed's relationship with his daughter adds tenderness to the narrative. From a technical standpoint, it's a well-shot sports drama. The fight sequences are as stylistic as ever and will have your heart racing, with emotional stakes throughout. The three movies play off each other in a gratifying and cohesive way. Boxing enthusiasts and fans of the Rocky franchise will leave feeling satisfied. Creed is one of the best trilogies in the 21st century and a satisfying story to close out the trilogy.