Five Ways ‘Creed III’ Could Move the Series Forward
Having smashed expectations and records, Creed II is not only one of the biggest box office surprises of 2018, it’s abundantly clear that moviegoers haven’t gotten enough of the Rocky franchise and want more from the character-driven dynamics between Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Sylvester Stallone. A sequel has yet to be announced, and if there is one the news won’t be revealed for several weeks, but already people are speculating who Adonis Creed should fight next. The end of Creed II left nary a loose end to be tied up, so anything could happen at this juncture.
The easiest (and quite frankly laziest) way to go is to continue to milk the nostalgia of the past with little thought given to how it will drive the series forward. That’s why there’s chatter and fan theories about bringing back Clubber Lang or – inexplicably – the fictitious son of Tommy “The Machine” Gunn, the lead antagonist of the much-maligned Rocky V. But if the Creed films have shown us anything, it’s that directors Ryan Coogler and now Steven Caple Jr. aren’t content with simply rehashing the past for the sake of sentimentality. Thus far, they have delivered more than the proverbial new frame on an old painting by reshaping how a franchise continuation is viewed, avoiding the trappings of the dreaded “sequelitis.”
Creed II already dispensed with the idea of being a formulaic repeat of the original Rocky films. Instead of setting up a rematch with “Pretty” Ricky Conlan from the first film, it jumps forward in time to show a seasoned Adonis Creed becoming the heavyweight champion with a win over Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler. While there were a number of callbacks to earlier movies in the franchise, notably the structure of Rocky III and the relationship between the titular fighter and his strong-willed partner, the differences outweigh them enough to create a fresh universe for a new generation. To keep that trend going, and still maintaining threads to the past, below are five ways the next installment of the Creed series could go. Obviously, there will be SPOILERS galore ahead.
1. The Drago Redemption Arc Continues
On paper, Creed II looked to be merely a revenge film, with the son of Apollo Creed taking on Viktor Drago, the son of the man who killed him. Yet the reality was much more complex, with a broken Ivan Drago having been ostracized by his country and his wife, clinging to Viktor’s burgeoning boxing career as a way to reclaim his dignity. By the end of the film, the father and son have a strengthened bond, knowing it’s the two of them against the world – and being ok with it. Returning with that mindset for another run at Adonis in what would be a final bout in a boxing trilogy along the lines of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier would make for a compelling story to see how their relations continue to grow between one another and with Creed and Balboa. Both Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu, who play the elder and younger Dragos respectively, have expressed interest in returning, and given the reception their Creed II character's storyline has been received, audiences likely feel the same.
2. Creed vs. Creed
One element not addressed in the Creed films is Apollo had two children before Adonis with Mary Anne, a boy and a girl. Bringing either of them into the series would have muddied up the plot of the first two movies, but could set the stage for a poignant conflict in the third, drawing out emotions on both sides as who has the right to be called “Creed,” with Adonis making the most of his lineage and the others left forgotten. Perhaps the other son of Apollo, 10-15 years older in the franchise timeline, wouldn’t be a likely contender to jump into the ring, but could have a protégé he’s been building up to exact revenge on his half-brother for what he sees as the ultimate slight in co-opting the Creed name for his own success as an illegitimate offspring.
3. Clubber Lang’s Long Game
Boxing Mr. T – now in his late 60s – would be ridiculous. Having him show up with a son to fight Adonis would be repetitive and uninspired. But the way Caple Jr. was able to humanize Ivan Drago begs the question, “What could he do with the Clubber Lang of today?” At the end of Creed II, Rocky has ostensibly stepped aside not just to allow Adonis to shine on his own, but to focus on connecting with his son Robert. Now, the door is wide-open for a new trainer. Other than two brief – but nasty – exchanges with Apollo, Lang never had a legitimate beef with Creed. In the present, the character is back in his hometown of Chicago, preparing fighters for a professional career, supposedly having let go of the anger that drove him in Rocky III after being humbled by Balboa in their rematch. In actuality, he’s an incredibly bitter and volatile individual, having spent years planning his revenge on Rocky and seeing a way to do it by befriending and then manipulating Adonis in some way, leaving him shattered by leading him down a nefarious path. It would open the door for Rocky to return to help Donnie get back on his feet and get back at Lang, burying him once and for all.
4. Taking a Page From Today’s Headlines
There has been no greater sports spectacle in recent memory than the battle between the cocky mixed martial artist Conor McGregor and undefeated and equally brash boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017. It’s a movie waiting to happen. Bring in an utterly obnoxious MMA fighter who has torn through opponents in his own sport, looking to do the same in the squared circle. Set it up as an exhibition that goes horribly wrong, with Adonis on the receiving end of some particularly brutal full contact. To succeed in a rematch, he’d have to completely rethink his training, learning new techniques and fighting styles just to be able to keep up. At the end he silences the loudmouth, showing that heart and soul wins out over arrogance and bullying behavior any day.
5. Revenge For Rocky’s Death
At some point, Rocky has to die. Stallone has toyed with the idea of killing off the character in Rocky III, V, and Rocky Balboa. Death came calling in Creed but he ended up beating cancer – with the help of Adonis. Much like Rocky’s trainer Mickey, whose death was hastened by a violent shove from Clubber Lang, if Balboa were to mix it up with an opponent or cornerman of a rival who then took a cheap shot that left him critically injured, Adonis would be shaken to his core. Where would he go without his mentor? Who could fill Rocky’s shoes? Does he retire and call it a day himself or seek revenge? The gut check would set up a moving number of conversations with Bianca, calling back to Rocky and Adrian in Rocky II, III and IV when he needed her wisdom and support the most.