The binding glue of a movie franchise has changed from 1976 (when “Rocky” was released) to 2015 (when “Creed” was). Before the turn of the millennium, audiences went to the movies for the stars, like Sylvester Stallone himself or his rival Arnold Schwarzenegger. If an actor was the lead in a hit, studios would greenlight star vehicles for that actor, not spin-offs about supporting characters from that hit. As Mike D’Angelo wrote at The A.V. Club in 2013, “Movie stars were our superheroes [in the 20th century.]”

Now things are different. Think about the franchises that do thrive, superheroes and horror, and what they have in common: immediately recognizable characters. It’s not the actors people go to see so much as the characters they’re playing. Audiences turn out for Batman movies no matter if it’s Ben Affleck, Michael Keaton, or Robert Pattinson behind the cowl. In another of these mediums blurring lines, movie franchises now have the same appeal as television — you get to spend time with characters you enjoy watching.

Rocky Balboa is a recognizable character, but he’s inextricable from Stallone. Adonis Creed is the same mold. A mix of pathos, Michael B. Jordan’s charisma, and good old-fashioned underdog relatability let him win audiences’ hearts. People came to “Creed” for Rocky, but they’re coming back to this world for Adonis and to see him beat the odds again and again.