Creed III–Does absence of Stallone mean final curtain for Rocky franchise?

Rocky, the movie and role that made Sylvester Stallone a household name, earned him Academy Award nominations for both acting and his screenplay.  The latest Rocky movie, Creed III, is the ninth film in the series that predominately followed his boxing hero Rocky Balboa, and it now has a movie trailer.  This will be the first movie without Rocky–without Stallone on the screen (he reportedly only participates as producer this time).  Can Michael B. Jordan carry the franchise by himself?  It’s all in his hands, literally as he takes on double duty to direct Creed III.  But remember that Number 9 for a minute.

Stallone’s performance in Creed and Creed II proved he still has the acting chops, and can give as emotional a performance as ever, and his latest, Samaritan, was as strong as any mega-star’s late career roles.  Rocky garnered ten Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.  Stallone wrote each of Rocky II, III, IV, V, and Rocky Balboa in 2006.  That changed with Creed, and the film proved the change-up was just fine with contributions from writers Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington (check out my borg review of the first Creed here).  But is there a franchise with no tie to Stallone?

Like the first two Creed films, Creed III looks more like a character-driven drama than just another boxing movie.  This time director Jordan has actor Jordan taking on a previously unheard of friend from his youth (Jonathan Majors) that ended up in jail, now to be released and seek revenge in the boxing ring.  Here is the trailer for Creed III:

How about at a minimum giving us the ghost of Creed advising his son Obi-Wan Kenobi style?  It’s not like the man behind Apollo Creed is dead–Carl Weathers is still being large and in charge as an actor in The Mandalorian series.

The Rocky universe continues its “Who’s Who of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” with Black Panther co-lead Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger) back as Creed, and Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder co-star Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) as his wife, apparently taking a distant backseat in this movie.  New co-star Majors is a new addition with future MCU street cred–he will play Kang the Conqueror in forthcoming Marvel movies.

About that Number 9–it seems impossible Stallone won’t return for a Rocky X.  Looking ahead to 2025 or 2026, we’ll be at the 50th anniversary of the franchise.  How could Stallone not want to be a big part of that?

Creed III arrives in theaters March 3, 2023, 48 years after the first time Rocky entered the ring in the original film.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

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