Lately I have bemoaned the lack of quality and the pervasiveness of franchises. But here’s one I’ll continue to root for.

“Creed III” is an outstanding movie in so many ways. Even though his name is mentioned, we don’t see the character of Rocky Balboa here. The franchise has fully transitioned from Rocky to Adonis Creed now.

Star Michael B. Jordan has all kinds of talent in front of and behind the camera – his direction here is superb, and so is his performance.

Jordan is back as Creed, who has retired to spend time with his wife (Tessa Thompson) and their daughter (Mila Davis-Kent.) One day, an acquaintance from Creed’s past walks into Creed’s gym.

Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors, also appearing on a neighboring screen in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”) is a former childhood friend of Creed’s. He’s just out of prison, and he wants something – in fact, he thinks Creed owes him something: A boxing career.

Does this sound unlikely? Creed tries to tell Dame that. But remember it was an unlikely champion – Rocky – who started this franchise in the first place.  

I love watching Jordan and Thompson together, especially when Creed brings Dame home. Thompson wonders why she hasn’t heard about this old friend before, and what secrets he might have in connection to her husband’s troubled past.

The look of the movie is wonderful. Jordan juxtaposes light and shadow beautifully. And in one sequence, the pasts of opponents in the ring are shown in brief flashbacks that create sympathy for them both.

This is a drama, a sports movie, and a character study, all wrapped up in terrific performances, believable dialogue and interesting characters. It could be a contender in multiple Academy Award categories next year.

3 ½ stars

Rated: PG-13 for foul language, violence and boxing violence.

Running time: One hour and 58 minutes.

At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Msucatine.

Watch the trailer here.