Get ready to rumble all over again as Creed III heads for Cineworld screens. In 2023, the latest instalment of the engrossing Creed franchise, itself spun off from the classic Rocky series, brings the testosterone, the history and the personal demons roaring back. Frankly, we cannot wait.
Star Michael B. Jordan now doubles up as director to make his filmmaking debut. Jordan's character, pugilist Adonis 'Donnie' Johnson, now faces his most personal threat, all the while as his family legacy continues to weigh heavily upon him. (Click here to discover the Creed III posters.)
Scroll down to discover what we've learned from the Creed III trailer and why this is poised to be the most emotional Creed movie yet.
1. Donnie is now cemented as the new champ
Creed III is the first Rocky movie without Sylvester Stallone. That makes it historically significant and it also throws down the dramatic gauntlet. Can we become invested in the absence of the franchise's creator and anchoring point?
The first two Creed movies shifted Rocky's position to that of trainer and mentor (akin to Mickey's role in the first few movies), to powerful effect, but Creed III faces the real test by removing Rocky altogether.
The below screenshot effectively cements Donnie as Rocky's proxy, as Forbes magazine confirms him as the new champ. If the first two Creed movies dramatised Donnie's ability to emerge from Rocky's shadow, he now appears to have made it.
But as the Rocky franchise has made repeatedly clear, there are always new challenges lurking just around the corner...
2. Bianca is still by Donnie's side
There's not enough of the brilliant Tessa Thompson in the Creed III trailer. However, it's gratifying and comforting to know that she is still present to offer emotional gravitas in her role as Bianca.
She has been Donnie's staunchest champion since her introduction in the first Creed and we wonder how her emotional journey will proceed in the new movie. Their daughter is now growing up and we see Donnie doing some basic pugilistic moves with her, so it's evident that family is as important a theme as ever before.
We imagine it will be an anguished journey as Bianca bears witness to Donnie's emergent rivalry with a brand-new, and very personal, threat.
3. The Creed canon expands with the introduction of Damian
The first two Creed movies liberally drew from the history of Rockys I to V. Released in 2016, Creed took a fresh look at Rocky's history with enemy-turned-ally Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who was killed in the ring by Russian behemoth Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). This pain manifested in the form of Donnie, the late Apollo's son.
The fearsome Drago stepped out of the shadows in 2018's Creed II, once again putting Rocky to the emotional test. There was a dramatic extension of the generational conflict as Drago's son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) went head to head with Donnie, a visceral reminder that the past is never dead, just buried.
This time, however, we dip into previously unseen areas of Donnie's life, as opposed to Rocky's, another sign of how the baton has been passed. His competition is the mysterious Damian (Jonathan Majors), a former childhood friend who has spent many years in jail and who has just been released.
Donnie clearly harbours a guilty conscience about what happened to Damian and the latter knows it, needling his old friend before escalating the conflict in classic Rocky style. In the Creed III trailer, we see Damian eliminating at least one competitor in the ring, prompting a concerned look from Donnie as he perceives the scale of the threat.
4. Jonathan Majors appears to be playing both a victim and a villain
The increasingly impressive Majors has graduated from poetic art-house gems (The Last Black Man In San Francisco) to full-on blockbuster fare.
Before he cements his status as Kang the Conqueror in Phase Six of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Majors gets the Rocky franchise under his belt.
The enigmatic Damian allows Majors to tap into his skill at portraying ambivalent characters, his features shifting from furtive sympathy to steely-eyed malevolence as Damian's agenda becomes clear.
This character complexity is evidently tied to his history of incarceration. On the inside, Damian transformed himself into the proverbial outhouse and he now poses a serious threat to Donnie's title.
Majors' physical transformation is as impressive as the unreadability of his character is compelling. The Rocky franchise has never wanted for excellent antagonists, and Damian looks like a strong addition to the list.
5. The Creed/Drago rivalry is still present
While Damian is waiting to be released from prison (his surroundings appear to resemble that of a prison cell), there's a flyer attached to his mirror announcing a fight between Donnie and Viktor Drago. In fact, we get a brief but visceral glimpse of the boxing match in question as the two rivals go head-to-head again.
We imagine that Creed III will begin with this bout, addressing the rivalry from the previous film that presumably will be put to bed when Donnie wins and begins Creed III as the champion.
This is poised to make Damian's insurgent, left-field threat all the more damaging to Donnie's supremacy.
6. Donnie adopts Apollo's classic stripes during the ringside showdown
A classic father-son legacy is cemented in one memorable image. As Donnie heads ringside for the climactic bout with Damian, we see him sporting a stars-and-stripes hoodie. This is presumably a deliberate homage to his late father Apollo's star-spangled costume from Rocky III.
It's clearly all to play for as Creed III reaches its sure-to-be-fist-pumping endgame, Donnie honouring the memory of his parent at the same time that he fights to retain his title. And, on top of all that, he has to overcome childhood trauma and confront the venomous legacy of the man who used to be his friend.
In other words, it's everything we've come to expect from the Rocky series.
What did we miss from the trailer? Let us know @Cineworld and prepare for the release of Creed III on March 3, 2023. If that seems too far away, satisfy those Rocky cravings with another viewing of the trailer.