Creed II unites the past and present of the Rocky franchise by bringing back the franchise's most iconic villain, Rocky IV's Ivan Drago. This naturally raises the question that, if Creed III gets made, could we see the return of Mr. T's James "Clubber" Lang from Rocky III? Creed II director Steven Caple Jr. isn't sure if we'll see Clubber Lang again, but he did muse on how interesting it would be to bring the character back, saying:
He's an interesting character. And just to see where he'd be at now, where they try make him grounded and seeing where Mr. T is at. Again, nostalgia and just finding a way to bring back characters, but in 2018 and 2019 they have a more modern day level and will always be interesting. You know what I mean? I love challenges like that. Trying to make Drago human. How to make Clubber Lang human. Like, where is he at today? Those are the interesting routes to go in developing characters. That's my favorite part of character development.
There is no reason yet to think that we'll be seeing the return of Clubber Lang in Creed III, but Steven Caple Jr. brings up an interesting point about the challenge in bringing back the character in the modern era. We expect our modern antagonists to be menacing and fierce, but also complex and human. Mr. T's Clubber Lang was a bit of an outlandish character and we don't really get to know him or see much of his humanity in the film. As Steven Caple Jr. tells Uproxx, that provides a fun challenge.
Clubber Lang would have to be a bit more grounded this time around. Sure, there are outlandish figures in the modern fight world. Conor McGregor in MMA and Tyson Fury in boxing come to mind, but it's all about how Clubber is depicted onscreen. He would have to be made believable and not quite as over the top as he was in that '80s era film.
Steven Caple Jr. has already accomplished that goal by making Ivan Drago more human in Creed II. He takes the Russian, who was something of a cartoon villain in Rocky IV, and gives him depth and a story that feels like an organic development for the character, while tapping in to the nostalgia for the old Rocky films by bringing him back in the first place. That is the same process that would have to happen for Clubber Lang.
The nostalgia factor would be there for a Clubber Lang return, although I'd argue not half as much as it is for Ivan Drago. Still, I'm sure fans, like Steven Caple Jr., would like to know what happened to the bruiser after he was knocked out by Rocky. I have no doubt that in the capable hands of someone like Steven Caple Jr. or Ryan Coogler, Clubber Lang could be brought back in the right way. The question is, how can that be done?
The danger with bringing Clubber back is that the Creed franchise becomes too much about referencing Rocky's past than about forging a new future. Personally I wouldn't want to see Adonis fighting Clubber's son or anything like that. The ideal scenario for me would be something smaller, like maybe a substantial cameo, but nothing so large that Clubber becomes a huge part of the story.