Can Creed II Continue To Expand The Rocky Franchise?

No one was taking odds in 1976, but the prospect of an eighth Rocky movie would have been more unthinkable than the Italian Stallion knocking out Apollo Creed. The series should have been dead after its lackluster fifth installment was released in 1990, but yet it has continued to be reimagined by its creator. In November of this year, the second Rocky spin-off, Creed II, will hit theaters and audiences will be able to see if Sylvester Stallone can continue the expansion of the most valuable sports franchise in the history of cinema.

According to boxofficemojo.com, the Rocky films have grossed a combined $676,325,030. Adjusted for inflation, these boxing movies are worth $1,783,131,100 to Hollywood. These are staggering numbers for any collection of films. The Rocky franchise is especially unique when considering that at least one movie has been made in each of the last five decades and that the same actor has starred in every movie. It is even more amazing because they lack the flash of rival intellectual properties like Batman or Star Wars. There are no caped crusaders. There has been no force to awaken. Just a guy from South Philly in a boxing ring.

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Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976)

Rocky is the unquestioned champion of the franchise. It won Best Picture at the Oscars and remains one of the most iconic sports films ever made. After Rocky, fans tend to have a favorite sequel to defend in a barroom debate. Rocky V  (1990) was a mistake that forced Stallone to tap the brakes on the series. Despite an implausible premise, Rocky Balboa (2006) was an enjoyable and well-written movie. Stallone had brought some closure to his signature character, but thankfully he did not completely retire the aging southpaw.

It seemed as if the mastermind of Rocky had exhausted all possibilities of continuing the series. He would be too old to step in the ring again. The sixth film looked like a swan song for Rocky Balboa and had erased the bad taste of Rocky V. In 2015 Stallone introduced a new character: Adonis Creed. Played by Michael B. Jordan, this addition instantly made the franchise fresh and exciting.

Creed was not only a successful reboot, but it was also a great movie. The 2015 film introduced a complex figure and a story that tugged on the traditional Rocky heartstrings. The movie brought its titular character from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and wound its way through parts of the city that don’t always show up in blockbusters. It even talked about “jawn.” Creed’s grit and desire for respect made his onscreen persona relatable.

Judging by the people yelling in the movie theater during the boxing scenes, people took to Donnie Creed just like they fell for the bum from the neighborhood in 1976.

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L-R, Stallone and Jordan in Creed (2015)

It could have been a great standalone movie, but that is not the nature of Sly Stallone. The man is the central figure of three franchises that have made serious bank: Rocky, Rambo, and The Expendables.

Creed II has a challenging path ahead and faces different obstacles than its predecessor. Creed was the first new Rocky movie in nine years. It could build off the allure of being the first sequel to ever introduce a new hero to the Rocky “universe.” Fans will go to the movie theater to see Creed II. Stallone’s presence will bring in audiences and Michael B. Jordan is a rising star who is set to have a big year (Black Panther, HBO’s Fahrenheit 451). If the goal is to continue a new series, the biggest challenge that the pair has is making a film that is good enough for audiences to return for Creed III, Creed IV, etc.

Creed IICreed II is set to be released on November 28, 2018. Stallone, Jordan, and Tessa Thompson will return for the picture. According to, IMDB the only other actor cast for the film is Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago in Rocky IV). The plot details are also sketchy at this point, but the sequel will likely set Adonis Creed against Drago or Drago’s son. In December Stallone shared a movie poster for Creed II on Instagram (that inexplicably advertises a Christmas release). The familiar red and gold Russian boxing shorts dominate the poster. The tagline “How much is your legacy worth” is irresistible.

The appeal of Adonis Creed seeking vengeance over the Russian boxer who killed his father is undeniable. It is soaked in “give the people what they want” nostalgia. U.S.A. vs. Russia has always been a popular choice, but it is especially in vogue now. Ivan Drago is one of the most disliked villains in the history of cinema. There is enough there to bring in audiences, but Creed II will not continue the Rocky series if it is relegated to a trip down memory lane. It has to sell Adonis Creed as a repeatable box office commodity.

With the exception of Rocky V, Sylvester Stallone has taken great care of the role that made him a superstar. If Creed II is successful, he will have extended a truly remarkable run of films that have had no equal in Hollywood. They have no comic books or merchandise to sell, only tickets.  It is amazing that 42 years after Rocky debuted, Sylvester Stallone is still chasing the same thing that his character has desired: the respect of his audience.

 

www.flatcircleblog.com is a Philadelphia pop-culture blog that covers television, music, podcasts, and movies. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or subscribe by e-mail to catch all posts and conversations. 

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