Nostalgia can be difficult to use in a film. Making references to earlier films, characters, etc. can be a great nod for older fans but can be empty for newer viewers. And if you’re borrowing too much, the winks and nods turn the film into a rehashing of the past. Look at the Back to the Future films–the second largely plays as a successful sequel, in part because of its nodding to the first film, but the third plays as a film with zero new ideas, because the winks and nods have now taken over.
Creed, as essentially the seventh Rocky film, has plenty of nostalgia to play with. And as much as the series has been a source of humor for its endless series of sequels, it has typically been a series built of its time, one that until its final entry never really cared about its past self. Rocky III includes Mr. T and a cameo from Hulk Hogan but isn’t full of references to the previous two films. Rocky IV‘s closest thing to a winking reference is that Survivor provides the theme song to the training montage again (and it’s very nearly the same song as “Eye of the Tiger”). They go back to some of the same plot points again and again but it’s not to make us laugh at the reference–it’s because they’re simplistic, basic plots that go exactly where makes the most melodramatic sense. Continue reading