Does Michael B. Jordan’s ‘Creed III’ have Oscar potential despite opening this early in the year?

Michael B. Jordan‘s first foray into directing with “Creed III” has done quite well at the box office, and been generally enjoyed by critics and fans alike. Maybe it’s too early to consider its awards potential, but maybe not, because there seems to be more room for movies like “Creed III” now than when Jordan first played the title role in Ryan Coogler‘s “Creed” back in 2015.

What’s particularly interesting about that initial release is that it did get Sylvester Stallone nominated for his third Oscar, nearly 40 years after his first two Oscar noms for writing and starring in the original “Rocky” (1976). That iconic boxing drama led to a full-on franchise that was more about box office than awards, but “Creed” came at a time when people started taking Coogler more and more seriously following his acclaimed debut feature “Fruitvale Station.” (Three years later, his “Black Panther” movie would receive seven Oscar nominations, winning three. Coogler wouldn’t receive his own Oscar nomination until producing 2021’s “Judah and the Black Messiah.”)

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There’s a far better opportunity for “Creed III” to be considered as a Best Picture contender, even this early in the year, because the academy is now sticking with 10 Best Picture nominees hopefully for a while. Some felt “Creed” was robbed of a Picture nomination despite being released in late November (usually prime real estate for Oscar contenders), but in 2015 the academy was still doing the sliding scale of 5 to 10 nominees. “Creed III” should have a fairly long theatrical life, but it’s likely to end up on either MGM’s new MGM+ streaming platform or Amazon’s Prime Video or both once it’s gone from theaters, giving it plenty of visibility.

It may be a little too early in Jordan’s directing career to think of him as a potential nominee for directing awards — other than DGA’s first-time director category – but his work on “Creed III” is indeed impressive, as are the performances he gets from his co-stars. Jordan has yet to be nominated for an Oscar – just a Primetime Emmy for producing the HBO movie “Fahrenheit 451” – but he has a not-so-secret acting weapon in one Jonathan Majors, who is also coming off his starring role in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” playing Kang the Conqueror. In “Creed III,” Majors plays Damian Anderson, a childhood friend of Adonis’s who has just been released after 18 years in prison. Majors is great in that role, though this year he also stars in “Magazine Dreams,” a drama that was picked up by Searchlight from its Sundance premiere, which is a more likely movie for him to get nominated for.

As we’ve seen this year, the academy is no longer afraid of sequels either, as there were a number of them in the nominations this year (especially “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water”), which could allow “Creed III’s” screenplay, written by Keenan Coogler and Oscar nominee Zach Baylin (“King Richard”) to get in. Let’s face it, though. Those above-the-line categories are always very competitive, so instead we might want to look at the crafts involved with making “Creed III.”

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Jordan’s best partner on his directorial debut is cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, who previously shot Jordan for the aforementioned “Fahrenheit 451” TV movie. Could the six-time Emmy nominee get an Oscar nomination? There’s no denying how his kinetic camera work contributes to “Creed III’s” boxing sequences.

The same can be said for the editing by Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson, the latter of whom edited last year’s “The Batman” with director Matt Reeves and came from David Fincher‘s editorial teams on films like “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” before editing eight episodes of Fincher’s Netflix series “Mindhunter.”

So much of the film’s emphasis is put on the pivotal fight sequences, and those are greatly enhanced by the score from Joseph Shirley, who has composed music for the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett.” The previous feature he did music for was 2022’s “Jackass Forever,” so this certainly might seem like a departure, but his score combined with the hip-hop soundtrack chosen by Jordan and music supervisor Mandy Mamlet goes a long way.

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Similarly, “Creed III’s” sound is quite remarkable, particularly the way the score is mixed with all the necessary sound effects to make you feel as though the fighters are really wailing on each other.

Visual effects may seem less prominent in “Creed III” than in other movies released this month, but they are absolutely crucial for things like the final battle between Adonis and “Dame” in L.A.’s Dodgers Stadium, not just to fill out the crowd, but also for an amazing bit of movie magic Jordan uses to really make you feel as if you’re alone in the ring with the two fighters.

Either way, “Creed III” should continue to do well theatrically for the remainder of the month, and hopefully MGM and Amazon will make a concerted effort to get it into the Oscar conversation as the end of the year approaches.

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