The third installment in the Creed series (or the ninth film in the Rocky film series) also serves as the feature directorial debut from Michael B. Jordan, who stars as the titular character. Jordan, along with screenwriters Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, do a great job creating a movie that feels satisfying to Creed and boxing fans, while also creating a story that isn’t alienating to those who are just being introduced to the series or the sport. Creed III stars Jordan (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Jonathan Majors (Devotion), Wood Harris (Ant-Man), Phylicia Rashad (Creed), Mila Davis-Kent (The Resident ), and Jose Benavidez.

Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Jordan) has dominated the boxing realm and has decided to retire from the sport to focus on his family. His peaceful retirement life is rocked when an old childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian “Dame” Anderson (Majors) comes back into his life. After serving a long prison sentence, Anderson has decided he wants his chance at a title and will stop at nothing to get what he deems he deserves, even if that means crushing everything that Creed has built while Anderson’s been in prison.

Creed III is filled with amazing actors and actresses. Jordan, Majors, and Thompson are all charismatic on screen and give powerful performances filled with depth and emotionality. The decision to cast a deaf actress in the role of Amara (Davis-Kent), the deaf daughter of Adonis and Bianca Creed, is inspiring.

The cinematography is quite a sight to behold. Fight scenes are crisp, and the Los Angeles scenery is captured beautifully. In a sports drama, using the same style of shots for action and fighting sequences can be a tiresome pitfall. To avoid that, Creed III uses unique angles mixed in with clever takes on tropes in order to fully immerse the audience into the scene. Kramer Morgenthau, the cinematographer for both Creed II and Creed III, shot this film on IMAX-certified Sony CineAlta Venice cameras and Panavision anamorphic format to make his vision come to life. Creed III is the first sports movie to use these techniques.

The film experiments with a surprising and novel visualization of the rivalry between Creed and Anderson during their last fight. While this scene is interesting, it does disrupt the flow and pacing of the intense sequence, if only slightly. The visualization is stunning, but there is something so jarring about the moment, that audiences may be taken aback for a second. In addition, a few of the scenes seem to run just a touch too long, lingering on certain aspects of the setting or characters for dramatic effect.

The 116-minute run time might seem a little daunting to those new to the series, but the pacing with the rest of the movie is well-done. The drama, chemistry between actors, and the suspenseful fight scenes keep audiences engaged and invested in the characters.

Coogler and Baylin have crafted a wonderful screenplay for Creed III. Themes of guilt, forgiveness, worthiness, and loyalty are tested in numerous ways throughout. Jordan has started off his directorial career with a solid entry. If moviegoers are looking for a stylish film filled with drama, which will tug at their heartstrings and pull their emotions in multiple directions, Creed III is a great choice.