While Sly Stallone famously didn’t return for Creed 3, he wasn’t the only Rocky franchise veteran to be strangely absent from the installment.
Fans of the Creed and Rocky franchises may have noticed that Creed 3 was lacking an important legacy character in Ivan Drago. While the film already missed the presence of franchise creator Sly Stallone as Rocky, Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago was also notably absent. Creed 3 took a new direction for the franchise, featuring the original character, Damien Anderson (Jonathan Majors), as its central antagonist. Ivan’s son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), who was the main antagonist of Creed 2, was also present in the film as a supporting character to Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan).
Creed 2 saw one of the tensest matchups of the franchise so far, as the rivalry between the Drago family and Adonis Creed was underlined by the fatal boxing match that took place in Rocky IV, in which Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed, Donnie’s father, in the ring. After the final fight in Creed 2, Viktor Drago seems set on a path to redemption, as his violent behavior had been instilled in him by his complicated relationship with his father. Creed 3 didn’t explore this plot line much further, which is surprising, but there’s a reason why.
Ivan Drago’s Creed 3 Wouldn’t Make Sense Without Rocky
While the Creed family and the Drago family have a fatal event that binds them, Ivan Drago is truly one of Rocky Balboa’s rivals, and isn’t important to Adonis Creed’s story. Since Stallone didn’t return for Creed 3, there was no purpose in bringing in Ivan. Viktor Drago is a part of the next generation of boxers, like Adonis, and their relationship is important to the story of the Creed films.
The story of Viktor Drago’s redemption in the world of boxing is an interesting one, as his drama with Ivan was one of the better parts of Creed 2. Viktor will likely have to overcome his father in order to break away from the violent and controversial history of his family. This story was not the focus of Creed 3, however, and Ivan was likely only brought into the film to keep him relevant in preparation for the Drago spinoff film, which is in the works from MGM.
Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago Will Return In A Rocky Spinoff
Dolph Lundgren, despite Ivan Drago’s absence in Creed 3, is set to return in the Drago spinoff, which the actor has described as having something to do with the war in Ukraine. The story will likely establish both Dragos further as sympathetic characters, and build on their complicated relationship. While a war plot line may seem off-beat for the Creed movies, it does tie in well to Drago’s original appearance in Rocky IV, which had political commentary on the Cold War between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union. This is exciting new territory for the franchise post-Creed 3, as it will explore protagonists with different conflicts and motivations than what has been done before.