The first trailer for the Michael B. Jordan-directed Creed III reveals a new rival for Jordan’s Adonis Creed. Jonathan Majors’ Damian is a fighter recently released from an 18-year prison sentence after being arrested alongside Adonis as a child. Given that the original Creed showed Adonis growing up in a juvenile detention center before being adopted by Apollo Creed’s wife, Mary Anne, it’s possible that the pair got separated because of this incident. In fact, Damian says that “we was like brothers,” and it seems he resents Adonis because his success represents the life he could have had.
Introducing a figure from the protagonist’s past can provide a meaningful, evocative motivation for movie characters, and making those characters family invokes a sense of Shakespearean tragedy and irony. However, revealing that a new villain is secretly related to the main character has become something of a blockbuster cliché. Not only is Damian apparently not related to Rocky III‘s Clubber Lang as some fans theorized, but the fact that he calls Adonis his brother in the trailer refreshingly preempts the possibility of their own relationship being revealed as an underwhelming twist.
Creed III Sidesteps James Bond’s Most Controversial Twist
The Creed series and its preceding Rocky movies have some surprising similarities with the James Bond movies. Both have reinvented the legacy of a long-running theatrical saga and explored a variety of serious and silly installments. Watching the 2015 Bond movie Spectreit’s easy to feel that Cristoph Waltz’s chilling performance as iconic villain Blofeld was somewhat wasted on a contrived and cliché revelation that he was ostensibly like a brother to Bond as a child. The twist has little to do with the original Blofeld’s motivation for international extortion and does not provide much new meaning to Daniel Craig’s version of the character.
In many ways, the twist could be seen as Bond‘s answer to the revelation of Luke Skywalker’s parentage in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. However, what was a groundbreaking twist in 1980 has become a rote expectation that makes every pop culture rivalry feel fatalistically predetermined, taking agency away from movie heroes. Another example of such a twist came in 2019’s Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalkerin which scavenger Jedi Rey was revealed to be the granddaughter of the powerful Sith Lord Palpatine. The twist arguably diminishes the diversity of the Star Wars world, undermining the inspirational principle that a character like Rey could come from nowhere and gather a strength that doesn’t depend on a family legacy.
Adonis and Damian’s relationship is different, and the fact that their lost brotherhood cannot be revealed as a twist to the audience and the other characters, like in Spectre, forces Johnson to develop the story in an original direction. It also depends on Johnson and Majors’ performances, the strength of which is evident even in this trailer. For example, Damian’s disbelieving smile as Adonis invites him to visit the gym not only reveals his confidence in his fighting abilities but also subtly conveys that he thinks Adonis only extended the gesture to alleviate his guilt.
Jonathan Majors’ Damian Probably Isn’t Clubber Lang’s Son
Some fans had theorized that Damian could be the son of Mr. T’s iconic Rocky III opponent, Clubber Lang. After all, Creed II set Adonis up against Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. Adonis has always struggled to balance his unique identity with his father’s legacy, drawing strength from his memory in the climax of the first Creed. Viktor’s presence in II was a compelling continuation of this theme, with Ivan somewhat selfishly using Viktor to settle an old score.
Introducing the son of a classic Rocky foe again would take this meaningful theme of legacy to frankly ridiculous extremes. Not only would it be unrealistic for the children of every Rocky character to gather in Philadelphia to relive their parents’ battles, but this repetition would also make it impossible for Adonis to face his own original conflicts as a character. Mercifully, it seems as though Damian is not related to Lang and represents a new battle that is Adonis alone. After all, Rocky’s childhood friendships were never explored as a theme in his movies, making Adonis and Damian’s tragic conflict a first for the legendary film series.
To see Adonis face Damian, Creed III hits theaters Mar. 3, 2023.