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“Creed III” is the first film in the, er, “Rocky Expanded Universe” to cast the Italian Stallion’s narrative arc aside. It’s a wise decision because there’s nowhere else to go with Balboa. Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed can’t keep fighting the spawn of Rocky’s former foes; “Creed II” stretched this to the breaking point with Adonis facing the son of Ivan Drago, and Sylvester Stallone would’ve probably kept heading down this derivative route. Rocky Balboa had outlived his purpose in “Rocky.”
Liberated from Stallone’s purview, “Creed III” is a breath of fresh pugilistic air. Following in the footsteps of his on-screen mentor, Jordan has seized the directorial reins, and turned in a juicy, fistic melodrama that harkens back to the likes of Robert Wise’s “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Tonally, at least. Visually, Jordan has imbued his film with a certain fury that is clearly influenced by anime. The boxing set pieces are charged with an otherworldly ferocity that makes Balboa v. Drago look like a sparring session. According to cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, anime was foremost on Jordan’s mind when it came to the filming of these sequences.
The Akira Of Creed
In an interview with /Film’s William Bibbiani, Morgenthau discussed the influence of anime on Jordan’s fight choreography. Per Morgenthau:
“I think Michael’s generation in particular, there are a lot of people of his generation that are huge anime fans and grew up watching it. He just grew up being a fan of anime, and that was a language completely different than cinematic language, that he brought in. From the get-go, he was like, ‘I want to bring anime into the boxing,’ and it’s a perfect fit because it’s a very poetic language. It’s a very subjective language.”
Jonathan Majors’ Diamond Dame isn’t a cartoon villain in his construction. He’s a friend from Adonis’ past who represents a path down which the champ could’ve gotten lost had a situation played out a certain way. But once Jordan juices up the melodramatic elements of the plot, he gives himself license to spin out a heightened rivalry that can comfortably encompass the visceral excitement of anime. “It’s a very subjective language,” says Morgenthau. “It’s a lot of using slow motion photography, using lenses that we had that had distortion elements to them. And it’s just thinking about being inside the boxer mind.”
“Creed III” isn’t exactly “Akira,” but it’s a far more effective approximation of anime artistry than, say, M Night Shyamalan’s unwatchable “The Last Airbender.” This isn’t Stallone’s franchise anymore, and the series is well rid of him.
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