Warning: This article contains spoilers for Creed IIICreed III finds Adonis Creed at his lowest point, much like Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in Rocky III, but despite sharing some similar story beats, the capstone of the Creed trilogy succeeds in ways that Stallone’s movie fails. Despite having a luxurious house in the LA hills, a beautiful family, and a gym full of young boxers to mentor, Donnie is at a crossroads in his life. Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a childhood friend recently released from prison after 18 years, wants a shot at greatness in the ring, and feeling guilty that Dame was arrested for protecting him in their youth, Donnie agrees to give him a second chance.
Trying to support Dame reclaim his stolen dreams threatens to destroy everything Donnie’s built, particularly when his friend goes to increasingly dangerous lengths to secure a title match that under normal circumstances wouldn’t be his. At this point, Creed III repeats storylines from Rocky 3, including Donnie coming out of retirement to take Dame on in the World Heavyweight Championship, and receiving training from a former adversary, much like Rocky did with Apollo Creed. Both films lead to a climactic fight, in Rocky’s case against a hungry young challenger named Clubber Lang, and in Donnie’s, his boyhood friend Dame, but there are moments in between when Creed III truly shines.
Creed 3 Highlights The Equality Between Bianca & Adonis
Throughout the Creed franchise, Bianca has been by Donnie’s side, even as she’s had her own bouts fighting with hearing loss, and the pair share a strong relationship based on respect and equality. Rather than slowly come out of her shell the way Adrian does in Rocky 3, Bianca continues to be a dominating force to be reckoned with in Creed III, shifting from performing to producing music, and working together with Donnie to make sure their daughter Amara thrives while navigating Deafness. Adrian was eventually killed off to fuel Rocky’s emotional journey, but Bianca is allowed to have her own.
The pair come across much more like a power couple than Adrian and Rocky in Rocky 3, particularly as Adrian does all the emotional labor for a depressed and self-indulgent Rocky. This isn’t to say Bianca doesn’t offer Donnie support, particularly since he doesn’t have Rocky to lean on in Creed III, but she encourages him to open up emotionally not just because his feelings could jeopardize his match against Dame, but because it’s the respectful and mature thing to do with a partner. When she voices her own self-doubts and insecurities around her hearing loss, he also gives her the same space to process how she’s feeling.
Donnie & Dame’s Fight Is More Personal Than Rocky & Clubber Lang
In Rocky 3, Rocky comes out of retirement to face Clubber Lang (Mr. T), a hungry young boxer eager to make a name for himself. Dame is one of Creed III’s new characters and Donnie’s ultimate challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship title, and while egos and belts are on the line for Rocky and Clubber Lang, their confrontation is hardly the sort of personal fight that exists between Donnie and Dame in Creed III. Dame believes that not only has Donnie been living the life he should have had, but when he was in his darkest hour, his childhood friend abandoned him in prison without any contact.
When Donnie finds out that his adoptive mother, Mary Anne, concealed Dame’s letters from him, Donnie is racked with guilt, now aware of just how much his silence must have impacted his friend, even if it wasn’t his fault. While Donnie doesn’t want to fight his friend, Dame’s tactics to remove all obstacles on the way to settling the score (Viktor Drago, Felix Chavez) force his hand, and he begins training to meet Dame’s challenge. Creed III indicates Adonis needs Rocky to win more than ever, because if he doesn’t acknowledge that his biggest opponent in the fight is himself, then he’ll never be able to master his guilt and fear.
Bianca Is Treated With More Respect Than Adrian In Rocky 3
One of the biggest motivations Rocky has for fighting Clubber Lang in Rocky 3 comes down to what the latter says about Adrian. This disrespect is the final push Rocky needs to battle the younger boxer in the ring, but it didn’t need to be. Creed III demonstrates how the fight between Donnie and Dame is possible without having to resort to disparaging words casting aspersion on one of the prominent female characters in the film. The men have their own reasons to fight that don’t involve Bianca, leaving her free to affect the plot more dramatically in other ways.
It’s at Bianca’s behest that Donnie leaves Philadelphia, breaking a cardinal rule of the Rocky movies, for Los Angeles at the end of Creed II, and their life there is as much a credit to her hard work in the music industry than his in the boxing business. Rather than exist as a plot device like Adrian in Rocky 3, Bianca is part of the plot itself, such as the scenes she shares with Dame in which he recognizes the dissatisfaction in her own life. What might have been a moment designed to sow seeds of doubt in her relationship with Donnie only makes it stronger, as they discuss their difficulties and emerge more united than ever.
Adonis Has A Better Emotional Journey In Creed 3
Both Donnie and Rocky are in tough positions in their respective third movies, rich beyond their wildest dreams but listless and unsatisfied for personal and professional reasons. Adonis avoids one crucial Rocky mistake by not letting his wealth change him into someone who’s lazy and complacent. The crux of the movie isn’t as much about proving that he’s still got legitimacy and credibility in the ring, but rather putting his father Apollo’s legacy behind him, and coming to terms with the type of person he is beyond his father’s shadow. A lot of this comes down to how he handles Dame’s challenge and what it means to beat him.
He knows that the moment he steps into the ring against Dame, he’ll lose no matter what. Even if he wins the fight, he’ll have beaten his friend, someone who protected him from potentially going to jail himself when they were kids, and taken away his dreams. Through all of this, not only does Donnie not have Rocky by his side, but in Creed III’s most heartbreaking scene, he loses one of his greatest supporters and blames himself. The emotional pit that Donnie has to climb out of in order to square off against Dame makes Rocky’s problems in Rocky 3 look relatively trivial by comparison.
Creed 3’s Dame Is Far More Complex Than Rocky 3’s Villain
Due to his backstory and Majors’ nuanced performance, Dame is a difficult antagonist to dislike. The fact that he just wants a chance to live the life that was taken from him for two decades seems like a small ask of Donnie, but it upsets the entire hierarchy of the championship and seems like favoritism. Flashback scenes show Dame, already a promising young boxer, taking Donnie under his wing and later, during an altercation with someone who abused them at their group home, protecting him from being convicted of assault. Creed III breaks a Rocky villain trend by making Dame sympathetic and outside of the normal black-and-white dichotomy.
The two men go into the ring for their final fight with so much left unsaid, making the explosive confrontation both exciting and also tinged with sadness. Under any other circumstances, it would be joyful to watch Dame get a chance at a taste of Donnie’s glory, but it occurs at the cost of his relationship with someone he once considered a brother. Creed III wisely acknowledges that ultimately, the darkness of its storyline is its greatest strength and separates it from Rocky 3, while offering an ending that still manages to retain the signature underdog optimism of the Rocky franchise.
MORE: 5 Reasons Creed 3’s Final Fight Is Better Than Rocky Vs Apollo