Creed III may be a masterpiece. It might be a flop. Either way, it will mark a turning point in the franchise: The first movie from the Rocky/Creed series without an appearance from Sylvester Stallone, the man who created Rocky Balboa, wrote or co-wrote almost every previous film, and played the character for more than 40 years. Rocky may be referenced in the film — his name is mentioned in its trailer — but Stallone himself is not in it.

That news comes as Stallone himself has publicly voiced his frustration with the franchise; not so much with Creed III but with the fact that he, as the creator and primary writer and star of the franchise (until now) does not actually own a piece of it. At some point, Stallone signed away the rights to the material, which is now controlled by the series’ producers, who have the legal right to make more Rocky and Creed movies without Stallone. In an Instagram post in July, Stallone wrote ““I really would like [to] have at least a little WHAT’s LEFT of my RIGHTS back, before passing it on to ONLY YOUR CHILDREN - I believe That would be a FAIR gesture.”

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter tied to his TV series Tulsa King, Stallone addressed the conflict and noted that any kind of resolution is “never gonna happen.” He also called Creed III a “regretful situation” because he knows “what have could have been” — and now presumably won’t be because Rocky is not a character in it.

He added...

It was taken in a direction that is quite different than I would’ve taken it. It’s a different philosophy – Irwin Winkler’s and Michael B. Jordan’s. 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.

The premise of Creed III finds Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed confronted by a man from his past, played by Jonathan Majors, who went to prison for years, supposedly on Adonis’ behalf. That sets up — what else? — a major boxing match between the two.

Stallone would know better than us about how light or dark Creed III is, but the Rocky movies themselves certainly had plenty of darkness. True, Rocky himself usually wound up victorious at the end of the film (although not always). But through the years Rocky lost his trainer Mickey, his wife Adrian, and his career after being diagnosed with brain trauma from too many fights. They weren’t always sunshine and rainbows for the Italian Stallion. I guess we’ll have to see what the film looks like when it comes out. Creed III is scheduled to open in theaters — without Stallone or Rocky — on March 3, 2023.

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