Creed III opens on March 3 and the latest installment has Michael B. Jordan reprising his role as the titular Adonis Creed. It also has him sitting in the director’s chair to helm his first feature film — and it is a big one. Not one person is worried because this is the most organic move from actor to director since, well, Sylvester Stallone decided to direct Rocky II… and every Rocky after (with the exception of Rocky V). Nonetheless, Jordan’s choice to direct the latest installment is not only a smart move but it speaks volumes about his character and the trajectory of his career.
It is without a doubt that Jordan is an effortless superstar. He is a movie star cut from the same cloth of Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt, and many other men before him — but very much of the 21st century. He does not need the pomp and circumstance of stardom. He is bubbling over with masculinity but is not tethered by it. He puts butts in seats. He does the job and does it to the best of his ability. No matter what role he plays, he always lets glimmers of MBJ shine. It seems like we always see Michael B. Jordan “the movie star” in any role but its never a distraction. For an actor to do that is a feat.
Jordan dons the Killmonger persona in Black Panther in one moment and then goes on to show his softer side with A Journal For Jordan. He wore his advocacy on his sleeve in Just Mercy and even dipped his toe in the raunchy comedy world with That Awkward Moment. We saw him as a found footage superhero in the often-forgotten but incredible pic Chronicle and, of course he soared as Oscar Grant in the critically acclaimed Fruitvale Station directed by Ryan Coogler — which brings us to the present.
It makes perfect sense that Jordan would choose to pursue directing considering he has worked with some of the best directors and storytellers of our time including Coogler, Steven Caple Jr., and Destin Daniel Cretton. In addition, he has been part of some of the most prestigious TV series that helped redefine television including Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights and David Simon’sThe Wire. With Jordan coming up in thriving creative environments with storytellers that have distinct visions, it was only inevitable that he would step behind the camera and create a vision of his own – and he was smart to do it with an iconic film franchise.
Jordan does everything in his career with a grace and swag. If something doesn’t exactly work out (remember Fantastic Four?) it feels like he just shrugs his shoulders and moves on. Instead of dwelling, he learns and it makes him a better storyteller.
Jordan coming into direct Creed III is a perfect example of reaching up and reaching back. It’s an example of a community we can build in a Hollywood that is far from being equitable and inclusive. Coogler and Jordan have been a team that parallels the director-actor relationship of Scorsese and DiCaprio — but the rules are different for them because they are Black men.
The pair started to let their partnership thrive and from there, grew an inclusive community that felt united. With a deliberate pace, they were creating stories together that not only had impact but created had intentional inclusion. They showed the power of what happens when people of color and their allies are allowed to tell their stories and build a team to help them. This would turn into Proximity Media which was founded by Ryand and Zinzi Coogler and Sev Ohanian, and co-founded by Ludwig Göransson, Archie Davis and Peter Nicks. They don’t tell everyone what they are doing — they show it.
It goes without saying that people of color, queer people and other historically marginalized voices feel safer in a working environment that includes people that look like them. They tend to thrive and be more trustworthy. Sure, there may be oversight by white overlords, but at the end of the day, fostering environments of inclusive energy will help work shine brighter and audiences be more invested in it if they feel a sense of camaraderie and love on the screen: just look at the journey of Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Creed III is essentially Coogler’s way of officially passing a directorial torch to Jordan — but it’s not ceremonious. It’s modest and thoughtful. Normally, actors that direct an installment of a major franchise would have a “Look at me! Look at me!” sign hovering over their head during the press tour. This moment has a quiet excitement.
This has been in the works since Fruitvale Station. Hell, it might have been in the works since Jordan was on All My Children. The fact of the matter is, Creed III was ready for Jordan and he was ready for it. Creed III is what happens when everything is supposed to work exactly how it is supposed to.
Jordan has already been in the Rocky/Creed cinematic universe for two movies so by now, he knows the character and the world and the players very well. I would imagine this would make the transition to the director’s chair a tad bit easier. Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin wrote the screenplay with Ryan Coogler which provides even more community-driven synergy.
Adding Jonathan Majors as the “frenemy” of Adonis was wildly intelligent because, well, it’s Jonathan Majors. He will elevate anything and will put all of himself into any role. Put him opposite of Jordan in a role that is like a second skin to him and that is a recipe for brilliance.
The sequel also evolves from its 2018 predecessor by showing how Creed is aging. He isn’t the same Creed we knew in the previous two movies. He’s a dad to daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Ken) and he is living happily married to Bianca (Tessa Thompson while his relationship with his mother (Phylicia Rashad) seems to be solid. All seems good, but the movie delves into some deep topics that we probably wouldn’t have gotten in the original Rocky franchise — especially since this is told through a Black lens.
With the relationship between Creed and Dame, the film takes traditional masculinity and injects it with vulnerability. In what would have been ignorantly perceived as “gay” in the past is now front and center in this movie. The film follows two hyper masculine Black men who are the epitome of Greek Gods – one of their names is Adonis for Christ’s sake. To have these two men share a traumatizing history and reunite after all these years is essentially a story about an estranged ex revisiting as much as it is about an estranged brother returning. They both have a score to settle and it is a fractured romance in its own way.
The character of Amara is deaf and signs throughout the movie and Jordan folds in sign language into the film in a way that isn’t patronizing or fishing for a compliment. It’s integrated into this world because there are real deaf people in this world. In addition, the film is setting the character of Amara up to be a big part of the franchise rather than just the daughter.
The movie shows what happens in a relationship when one succeeds and the other falls under unfortunate circumstances. It shows the consequences and dangers of comparing your life to others. The movie shows when “reaching up and reaching back” goes wrong but it also shows how acceptance and accountability can heal. Creed III can be summarized in one specific quote in the movie: “Forgive yourself to live the life you earned.” Which is something that many intentionally exploited communities can relate to.
With Creed III, Jordan shows what he is capable of. It feels like he is painting by numbers but he doesn’t stay in the lines all the time. He puts his stamp on it as he tries to find his directing voice. Jordan knows exactly what he needs to do as a director and he does it well because he’s had great mentors and teachers all his life. I’m curious to see what he does next.
Inclusion is always at the top of mind when we talk about diversity and representation in Hollywood. Preservation is just as important. Creed III is an example. Ryan Coogler took the directing reins of Creed, his first feature after Fruitvale Station. As a fairly new Black director, there was a lot riding on this spinoff considering it was part of the Rocky franchise. All eyes were on him. Coogler was smart and surrounded himself with the right team. He carries himself with this quiet, modest confidence that says “I know my voice” and people have no choice but to listen. A combination of that and an unbelievable thoughtfulness to his craft and mindfulness to the Black and other marginalized communities has made Coogler a talented, thoughtful storyteller. He has passed that on to Jordan who has not only preserved the legacy of this franchise but has also preserved s sense of community that Creed III was built on. Now its Jordan’s turn to help it thrive even more.