Over 40 years later, the timeline of the Rocky franchise holds up better than the decade-old timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some fans may scoff that pitting the continuities of the two franchises together is like comparing apples and oranges, but in a way, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) was one of the original movie superheroes. The underdog fighter from Philadelphia first inspired audiences with his heart and determination in 1976, 2 years before Christopher Reeve took flight as Superman. By the time Rocky faced Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in Rocky IV, Balboa's legend was equally superheroic. And even though he has hung up his gloves to mentor Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) in Creed and Creed II, a generation of fans still look up to Rocky as a childhood hero, which is the key to his enduring popularity.
Today, Marvel's movies rule the box office, with their beloved and rapidly-expanding shared superhero universe. However, even with its unprecedented success, the MCU could learn a thing or two from the Rocky franchise. The Rocky/Creed saga has managed to maintain a relatively uncluttered history and remained relevant while many other 1980s franchises like Terminator, Alien, and Predator struggle to re-ignite the spark they had with audiences 30 years ago. For its part, Marvel has released 20 films in 10 years with 3 more coming in 2019, which far outpaces the 8 Rocky franchise films - although amazingly, a Rocky/Creed film has been released in every decade since 1976.
Since 2019 will begin the MCU's second decade, Marvel Studios can perhaps find some inspiration from how well the Rocky franchise has been run. After all, the ties between Marvel and Rocky run deep: Creed director and the mastermind of the 2015 reboot, Ryan Coogler, directed Black Panther (and will be back for the sequel), and the top stars of Creed, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Sylvester Stallone, have all joined the MCU. Since Marvel and Rocky are sympatico, it's time to compare what Rocky has been doing right that Marvel can learn from.
- This Page: Rocky's 40 Year Timeline Mostly Makes Sense
- Page 2: Creed Improves The Rocky Movies
- Page 3: Rocky's Details Vs Marvel's Big Picture
- Page 4: Rocky Is A Movie Franchise, Marvel Follows Comic Book Logic
Rocky's 40 Year Timeline Mostly Makes Sense - Marvel's 10 Year Timeline Doesn't
One of the biggest things Rocky has going for it over the MCU is that it has a relatively simple timeline and continuity that fans can easily follow. The first film is set in 1976, during the United States' bi-centennial wherein the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), gives Rocky, an unknown club fighter from South Philadelphia, a title shot to celebrate the American Dream. The sequel and rematch between Rocky and Apollo take place less than a year later (although Rocky II was released in 1979), and Rocky wins and becomes champion.
Flash forward to Rocky III in 1982 where Rocky loses and regains the title from Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Then, in Rocky IV, Balboa faced Ivan Drago during Christmas 1985 to avenge the death of Apollo at Drago's hands. Rocky V's place in the timeline is a special case that will require a bit of clarification, but in it, Rocky retires from fighting until he stages an improbable but triumphant comeback in 2006's Rocky Balboa. Apollo's son, Adonis Creed, then becomes the new main character, with Rocky as his mentor, beginning in 2015's Creed and continuing into 2018's Creed II.
Rocky's 42-year timeline is relatively straightforward and makes sense, with only one major break in continuity revolving around Rocky V and the age of Balboa's son Rocky Jr., who was born in 1976 during Rocky II. When the elder Rocky fought Ivan Drago in 1985, Rocky Jr. (played by Rocky Krakoff) was 9 years old, but when Rocky returned from Russia in Rocky V, his son was inexplicably 14 years old (played by Sage Stallone). Although Rocky V was released in 1990, there wasn't a 5-year gap between Rocky IV and V in the timeline; the latter film took place soon after the former. The best explanation for this is simply that it must have been intentional and not a 'mistake'; writer-director Sylvester Stallone wanted Rocky V to be about Rocky's problems with his teenage son and wanted to cast his real-life son Sage in the role. Therefore, Sly 'aged up' Rocky Jr. to suit the needs of his story. Since Rocky IV and V were released 5 years apart, Rocky Jr. being 14 made sense in the real world, although the movies' actual timeline doesn't match the release dates. Regardless of Rocky V's complications, Rocky's throughline is impressive overall.
By contrast, the MCU has had lots of issues maintaining consistency over their 10 years of continuity. The cracks showed early in Phase 1 leading up to 2012's The Avengers, such as the events of 2008's The Incredible Hulk, 2010's Iron Man 2, and 2011's Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger being retconned into occurring during the same week. The Phase 3 films like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Black Panther are set at different points in the timeline, furthering confusion. Homecoming's '8 Years Later' title card - meaning that film claiming it's set 8 years after The Avengers - is such an inexplicable break of continuity that Avengers: Infinity War's directors Joe and Anthony Russo waved it away as a 'mistake'. Marvel recently released an official MCU timeline that addresses some issues but overall, the MCU's continuity remains problematic - and next year's Captain Marvel, which is set in 1995, and Avengers 4, which is expected to include time travel, could potentially muddy the waters even further.
Page 2: Creed Improves The Rocky Movies
- Creed 2 (2018) release date: Nov 21, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019