Buh bum buuuuuum buh bum buuuuum....
Creed III is officially in theaters! I hope everyone here gets a chance to see the film this weekend, because I really enjoyed it. I sadly wasn't able to watch every single film in the franchise (I still have to watch Rocky Balboa and Creed) so I can't do a ranking, but I decided to do a franchise comparison because I thought that would serve as a fun replacement. Let's dive in!
What I Like About Rocky
I think the Rocky series is more concerned about being fun. I'm not saying Creed isn't fun; it is. I just think more of the Rocky movies are focused on entertaining over providing a great story and characters. Of course, the first Rocky film is one of the great sports films of all time. Personally, I don't love it. I think it's a very well-made film, but it feels a little bit cheesy sometimes and I honestly find the plot to be a little bit boring. Rocky II, III, and IV are just fun movies, but they definitely aren't great. III and IV especially are just products of the 80s. I love watching Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips fight Rocky. Apollo Creed being killed in the ring by Ivan Drago is ridiculous but fun.
And then there's Rocky V. The only bad movie in the franchise, Rocky V is a mess. It starts off with Rocky retiring and then stupidly losing all of his money. To recover from all of this, he takes on a young protege named Tommy Gunn, who is manipulated by higher-ups to become the new Heavyweight Champion of the world. He leaves Rocky behind...and the movie ends with a street fight between Rocky and Tommy. The fight almost feels like Revenge of the Sith, albeit much less cool and much less epic.
So, overall, I do enjoy the Rocky franchise. It's fun. Even though I do think that the first one is the best quality-wise, I don't enjoy it as much as the next three, so I'd lump the first four movies into the same rating range. Besides Rocky V, all of these movies are good. They definitely aren't great, but they're fun.
What I Like About Creed
To me, Creed feels like the son that's more mature than the father.
What I mean by that is Creed grounds Rocky in a way that the original films didn't. Ryan Coogler is really good at injecting elements of realism into his films, and so you get that in the first two. It feels like a natural continuation of the franchise that takes the material seriously and doesn't have the corniness that Rocky II-V have.
Another part of that is the acting. The acting in the original Rocky is fantastic. I think Stallone, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Burt Young are all incredible in their various roles. But I don't think it maintains that level of quality throughout the series. I'm not saying the acting is bad, but it isn't always fantastic throughout. The Creed franchise, however, has amazing acting in every single movie. From Michael B. Jordan to Stallone at his peak to great supporting performances like Tessa Thompson and Jonathan Majors, this trilogy has managed to have superb acting from top to bottom.
I also feel like this franchise is more compelling and emotional than anything the Rocky franchise gives us. I guess Mickey's death in Rocky III is somewhat emotional, but the Rocky franchise is less concerned with emotion and more concerned with 80s cheese. The Creed franchise allows you to get invested in the characters and feel the emotions of the situation, which just gives it a sense of depth and complexity that Rocky never had.
Creed is also able to make the Rocky franchise better. Specifically Creed II. That movie takes Rocky IV, a ridiculous film about Apollo Creed being killed by Ivan Drago in the ring, and grounds it. We see how Adonis copes with having to fight the son of his father's killer. We see Drago as an actual character and not just a giant machine that can fight. We see how Apollo's death affected Rocky. This all ties back to the overarching theme of the Creed franchise: legacy. As a sequel franchise, Creed deals heavily with the legacy of Rocky and Apollo and eventually moves into Adonis and his legacy.
Final Thoughts: Which is Better?
If you can't tell, I like the Creed franchise better. I think Rocky is good, but I'd say I like every Creed movie more than every Rocky movie. Better themes, characters, arcs, and performances with a sense of realism makes the Creed franchise the champ in this one. But I do like both franchises. And I recommend both.
Creed III is in theaters now. Be sure to check out my review! Link is in the intro above.