Set to be the ninth film in the Rocky franchise and the third of the legacy series, Creed III has received an all-revealing new trailer, which includes a release date of 3 March 2023. In the trailer, we learn about how the story advances to present us with a very different Adonis Creed to the one we left in Creed II, as well as his next opponent.
Notably, this will be the first film in the franchise not to feature Sylvester Stallone – the writer, director, and boxing choreographer for much of the original series – with the focus turning entirely to Apollo Creed’s son. In the third Rocky movie, Clubber Lang infamously defeats Rocky Balboa and inadvertently causes Mickey’s death. Creed III looks to be headed in a completely different direction, which is good for the franchise.
As is always the case with these legacy films, series, and sequels, Creed III will continue to be compared to the Rocky movies. It’s impossible to deny the tremendous impact of Rocky and its sequels, and so far, while the movies stand up well enough on their own, Creed and Creed II have ridden the coattails of Stallone’s boxing epics. Michael B. Jordan – who will star and direct Creed III – clearly seeks to blaze a more original path in the upcoming 2023 flick.
Creed III time-jumps and brings in a fantastic actor to rival Jordan
Creed III pulls the series five years after Creed II, with Adonis Creed standing among the reigning kings of the sport. Still the world champion and living a stable life, Creed’s life gets a welcomed surprise in the form of his old friend Damian Anderson coming out of prison. However, it quickly becomes clear that the 18 years served were dominated by a desire to climb the boxing ladder.
From helping a friend get back on his feet, Creed recognises the swift rise of Anderson, knowing that he’ll have to eventually face him in the ring. Alongside Jordan reprising the lead role, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, and Florian Munteanu – who played Viktor Drago in Creed II – will return. The trailer also shows Tony Bellew throwing down in the ring again with Creed, and Canelo Álvarez posing with Creed at an event.
Still, the big new entry is Jonathan Majors as Damian Anderson. Majors has been a rising star in Hollywood over the last few years, breaking out in 2020’s Lovecraft Country as the main protagonist. Since then, he’s landed what will likely be a major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Kang the Conqueror – the next supervillain they’re attempting to build to – as well as part of the ensemble cast for The Harder They Fall with Idris Elba and Zazie Beetz. By the looks of the trailer, the near-6’’ actor has bulked up for the role.
Behind the scenes, Creed III is being written by Zach Baylin (King Richard) and Keenan Coogler, whose only other writing credit is, unfortunately, to Space Jam: A New Legacy. That said, the highly rated Ryan Coogler also contributed to the story crafting, as he did with Creed, Fruitvale Station, and Black Panther – all of which he also directed. It will be Jordan’s directorial debut.
What looks to be the biggest strength of Creed III is that it’s not treading the path already laid out by the Rocky series. While it would have been easy to bring in another legacy son, especially one for a character as well-known as Mr T’s Clubber Lang, exploring new points of tension and drama is the better way to go. Creed needs to stand on its own if it’s to be respected as its own series.
Not only does it help Creed pivot out from a now-too-common modern trope of movie and TV prequels, sequels, and spinoffs – to just copy plot points, lines, and shots from much-loved former creations, as the likes of The Rings of Power, Star Wars, and Star Trek have – but it also makes it inherently more captivating. Now, we get an original story with new points of development and outcomes that aren’t simply made to bait moviegoers with nostalgia.
Rocky legacy remains as strong as ever
First released in 1976, Rocky has become a classic film and one that rocketed the sports movie genre to new heights. Few would rank it as the outright best boxing film on cinematic merit, with plenty of competition from The Fighter, Southpaw, Creed, Hands of Stone, Ali, Bleed for This, and most notably, Raging Bull. However, its impact is unmatched, and its story remains timeless both for the underdog story and the boxing grind put front and centre.
Making over $200 million at the worldwide box office on a $1 million budget, Rocky was always guaranteed to get a sequel. Rocky II made $200 million, Rocky III returned $156 million, and then Rocky IV in 1985 made a deservedly franchise-leading sum of $300 million. Rocky V is the lowest earner of the franchise at nearly $120 million, but 2006’s comeback flick Rocky Balboa both gave the hero a decent send-off and a strong return of $156 million.
Rocky goes far beyond the big screen, though. Running from 2012 to 2017, Rocky the Musical was nominated for four Tony Awards and won Best Scenic Design. In the rankings of the best recommended online slots to play, the Rocky slot sits firmly alongside the likes of Hitman and Battlestar Galactica. With medium volatility, a £7.5 million maximum win, and a title match feature round that brings in Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang, and Apollo Creed, it’s no wonder that the slot is popular.
Does Creed hold up to Rocky?
Creed and Creed II did lean heavily on the inclusion of Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky franchise, but far less than many other recent reboots and attempts to return to much-loved franchises. Credit to Jordan as a charismatic lead, the inclusion of real boxers, good writing, and to an extent, Stallone taking a back seat, the Creed movies can stand on their own.
Notably, Creed II made $40 million more at the box office than Creed, reeling in $213 million – a feat that Rocky II shouldn’t achieve with the same three-year gap between releases. The writing has allowed Creed to take a different angle, not a complete retread, and build up events as they should be in the world of hyped-up boxing. Importantly, while it gives tiny nods, key parts of the dialogue, plot, and individual character development don’t rely or call back to the Rocky movies. They are essentially films in the same universe.
Creed’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed beyond the box office, either. In fact, Creed looks to essentially be the official brand of boxing gaming in the complete absence of an officially licensed boxing video game. While the long-in-development Undisputed looks to remedy this, for now, Creed: Rise to Glory on VR and Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions deliver boxing action with instantly recognisable stars from the franchise. Creed III looks set to cement the legacy series as its own entity, avoiding the pitfalls most others of its original ilk have fallen into in recent years.