If Sylvester Stallone Had Written Creed III, It Would Have Gone In A Different Direction

"Creed III," the ninth film in the overall series of "Rocky" films that first started in 1976, is a vast departure from every other movie in the franchise thus far for one key reason: the absence of Sylvester Stallone. What began as a passion project Stallone had to fight to be a part of soon transformed into a series of films about the indomitable human spirit (featuring some truly inspiring and incredibly training montages). The legacy sequel "Creed," released in 2015 and directed by Ryan Coogler, brought Rocky back into the spotlight in a new and dramatic way, as the film focused on Apollo Creed's illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) as he trains under the tutelage of Balboa. The film even earned Stallone an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The success "Creed" had in revitalizing the "Rocky" franchise led to the 2018 sequel "Creed II," which brought back old rival Ivan Drago from the legendary "Rocky IV," a film that's been jokingly said to have singlehandedly ended the Cold War. Adonis Creed's journey from being an unknown boxer to being thrust into the spotlight and facing the demons from his father's past put Rocky in a substantial supporting role. However, "Creed II" ended on a melancholic note for Stallone's character; after the climactic fight ended, Rocky told Adonis, "It's your time." As it turns out, this foreshadows the character's absence in "Creed III," although from the sound of it, Stallone bowed out of the upcoming sequel because he had different ideas for where it should go.

Creed III is 'a different philosophy'

In a piece from The Hollywood Reporter focusing on Stallone and his career, the actor talked about his absence from "Creed III." Stallone is usually very involved in the behind-the-scenes creative process with the "Rocky" films, having directed most of them save for the original, "Rocky V," and the "Creed" films. Stallone has also received writing credits for every film in the franchise except for "Creed" as well as "Creed III." Unfortunately, his departure from "Creed III" was mainly because first-time director Michael B. Jordan and others involved with the project wanted to take the series somewhere different, both tonally and philosophically:

"That's a regretful situation because I know what it could have been. It was taken in a direction that is quite different than I would've taken it. It's a different philosophy — Irwin Winkler's [Producer] and Michael B. Jordan's."

There's no ill will towards the team making "Creed III," as Stallone only sees the film as something darker than he expects for the franchise he created. The focus on Adonis and his childhood friend Damian (Jonathan Majors) will have more intense undertones that the Rocky actor would have stayed away from:

"I wish them well, but I'm much more of a sentimentalist. I like my heroes getting beat up, but I just don't want them going into that dark space. I just feel people have enough darkness."

A departure from the 'Rocky Tempo'

We can speculate about what exactly Stallone would have changed about the script, whether it be making the opponent in the film another legacy character or making the film more lighthearted. However, the real question should be why Stallone decided not to participate in the movie. The actor is very vocal on social media about his involvement in the films he makes, and he wasn't shy when talking about the changes he made to the scripts to fit the "Rocky tempo," as he described in an Instagram post. In that same message, Stallone said about the "Creed" films that "every scene I was in those films, I wrote too, so it would be very comfortable for me to perform in."

The first trailer for "Creed III" hints that this could be the most personal for Adonis, as Jonathan Majors' character is a close friend of Creed's from childhood. The film looks to capture the similar tone and feel of the first "Creed," especially the opening scene, which showed a young Adonis in a youth detention center. The focus on this past relationship may have left little room for the character of Rocky Balboa, and when pairing that with what Stallone suggests to be a darker film, it makes more sense why the actor decided to bow out entirely. Nevertheless, the track record of these films indicates Rocky's absence is all in service of telling an engaging story. It will be interesting to see how audiences receive "Creed III" when the film releases on March 3, 2023.