It’s Michael B. Jordan versus Jonathan Majors in the first trailer for “Creed III,” and who will win this brawl is anybody’s guess. MGM and United Artists Releasing debuted footage from the upcoming boxing sequel on Tuesday morning.
Jordan returns as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, son of Rocky Balboa’s fiercest opponent, Apollo Creed. But the actor isn’t just throwing punches at Majors’ antagonist Damian “Dame” Anderson in the film, “Creed III” also marks Jordan’s directorial debut. Just as “Rocky” star Sylvester Stallone went on to helm four of the franchise’s films, Jordan stakes his own claim behind the camera with an ambitious take on the material.
The footage begins with Donnie Creed on top of the world — a champion boxer on the cover of Forbes, with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a success in her own right as singer, and their daughter Amara (newcomer Mila Davis-Kent) beside them.
“I spent the last seven years of my life living out my wildest dreams,” Donnie says. “Bianca. Rocky. My dad. I stood on their shoulders.”
It’s then that the mystery of Majors’ role in all of this begins to crystallize, setting up the stakes between Donnie and Dame. “Let me get an autograph?” Dame says, cracking a grin while reclining against Donnie’s Rolls-Royce. “You don’t remember me, huh?”
The footage then flashes back to the two as youngsters raising their hands in the air, soon to be confronted by police. Turns out, Dame spent the last 18 years in prison and he’s ready to start fresh, or so it seems. But for Dame, reuniting with his “brother” Donnie and getting back into boxing — a sport in which he was the better of the two, he notes — is about much more than winning a championship belt.
“Imagine spending half your life in a cell watching somebody else live your life,” Dame yells when the two men finally confront each other about what’s really going on between them. “I’m coming for everything.”
Well, sometimes family business has to be settled in the ring, especially when, as the logline explains, “there’s no enemy like the past.” Thus begins the training montage for the “Battle for Los Angeles” — with wind sprints, pull ups, speedbag punches and ice baths as Donnie and Dame prepare to square off in what will surely be the most intense battle of the franchise to date.
The film also stars Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu (returning as Donnie’s “Creed II” opponent Viktor Drago) and Phylicia Rashad, with Jordan directing from a screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, with a story by Ryan Coogler and the duo.
During a press conference Monday, Jordan explained why he wanted to step behind the camera.
“For me it was the perfect time, growing up on set and in the industry for over 20 years, starting out doing background work and extra work and just kind of just seeing the sets evolve, seeing everybody’s job, seeing how a real production storytelling took place, I finally got to this place in my career where I wanted to tell a story and not just be in front of the camera, not just execute somebody else’s vision,” Jordan shared with reporters gathered virtually to preview the trailer.
“Having a character that I’ve played twice before — it’s been seven, eight years living with this guy — so to be able to tell the story of where I believe Adonis is at,” he continued. “And also at 35 years old, I had a lot to say, as a young Black man, just my life experiences and how I could actually share a piece of myself with the world through these characters and through the story.”
In fact, Jordan first approached “Creed” director Ryan Coogler about the prospect of directing while filming the first movie in 2015 and Coogler gave him some sage advice. “He was just like, ‘It’s never the right time. You’ve just got to jump in the deep end and go for it.’”
Thematically, Jordan teased that “family is always the core” of the “Creed” movies, as well as heart, so it was important to weigh in on what Donnie and Bianca’s lives are like now as they navigate their marriage, parenthood and careers as young adults. Jordan heaped praise on Thompson for being his “rock” in this process. “Trust is a huge thing, and having earned each other’s trust being in scenes together, and now having her trust me as a storyteller was the biggest compliment that she’s given me thus far,” he said.
About booking Majors to play the antagonist, Jordan said he felt “very blessed and lucky to have him be a part of this story.”
“For me, as a director, to have that running mate and that scene partner made all the difference in the world. The world is finding out daily how incredible this man is and the works that he does. It’s finally getting the props that it’s due. And Jonathan was incredible, man, he showed up every day ready. Ready to go to war. Ready to work.”
About Damian, Jordan teased that the character is “definitely a pivotal person and a pillar in Adonis’ life, that kind of comes back around and it needs to kind of get addressed.”
Earlier this month, Majors headlined a Men’s Health cover story, previewing the boxing physique he chiseled for the film. The actor insisted on lifting real weights on the set, following with three months of intense physical training to prepare for the role. The “Lovecraft Country” star insisted the physicality of his character played into his emotional arc as a hellbent boxer willing to risk everything in the ring.
“There are certain reasons you build your body,” Majors said. “Dame’s body was built from loss. He had lost something, and that hole is what made him work the way he worked. When you see Dame’s body, you go, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ You don’t look like that and be happy with life.”
“Creed III” marks the ninth installment in the “Rocky” film franchise and the third in the “Creed” spinoff series, which has made more than $377 million worldwide. The film hits theaters on March 3, 2023.
Watch the trailer below.
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