John Wick: Chapter 3 – Why plot isn’t everything and other random musing

In Latin, Parabellum translates as “prepare for war”. Just thought some of you might not be as brushed up on your ancient dead languages.

The first John Wick caught me completely off guard. It snuck up and grabbed me by the shoulders, violent shaking me and yelling at me to pay attention to it. It was understandable that I’d not notice it in a year where there were quite a few movies with <white dude name> as the title.

Today, John Wick has become a name that just gets me pumped up thinking about it. It’s grown into one of my favourite movie franchises in recent years. Not just mine either, the movie’s serious approach to action, combined with everyone’s realisation that Keanu Reeve’s is a super nice guy has create a perfect storm for John Wick.

Normally, this would be the part of the post where I would describe the plot of the movie; how it follows directly from the end of the previous one, with John now excommunicated from the hitman club after killing someone when he shouldn’t have.

But I don’t see the point in really doing that.

Hang on, don’t get angry with me yet. What I’m getting at is, John Wick isn’t a movie that uses plot to drive its action, rather it’s a movie that uses it’s action to drive it’s lore and world building.

Given how simply the first movie started, each following entry has worked on a startlingly simple plot, and yet with each passing entry we learn more and more about this strange version of the world in which seemingly 75% of the population are somehow involved with this shadowy organisation of assassins.

As John wades through the bodies of so many would-be after the price on his head, we learn more and more about the Table, their hierarchy, how they self police and start to learn their origins. Which is it me, or are there more and more connections between this world and that of Assassin’s Creed the deeper we get into it?

I get excited learning more about this world and its eccentricities than its individual characters and their own motivations. It’s crazy, it should not work at all. And yet it does. I spend a lot of time on here thinking about characters, their growth and motivations. John Wick has none of that, and I love it anyway.

Several paragraphs in and I haven’t even gotten to the action.

Keanu Reeves is a phenomenal physical actor. For the longest time he had been a punchline, for people to mock for his “limited” ability. In John Wick though, he has found the perfect embodiment of his skills as an actor. The franchises extended action sequences are one of a kind, showing an extremely efficient killer in his element.

And yet, for as many people as John Wick kills throughout these movies, it remains impersonal, until it isn’t. Like Keanu himself, John Wick seems to be a nice guy and when he kills someone out of emotional, the movie makes sure that the audience is 1000% behind him for doing so. I mean, even Gandhi would go on a murder rampage if his puppy got killed.

And so we feel justified in the visceral reaction we get to the action sequences in which John takes out hitman after hitman increasingly creative ways. The reactions the movie was getting from the audience around me when I was watching this didn’t have this vocal a reaction either of the times I went to see Endgame.

It occurs to me that for the time I’ve spent writing about how much I appreciate this franchise as a while, I haven’t really talked about chapter 3 specifically. It’s an odd one in that respect. These movies are so intertwined at this point that I feel like you know if you’re on board with them or not at this point.

These aren’t like Marvel movies in that you can pop in and out and enjoy an individual movie without context of the others, I mean you could, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice. If you’re interested in seeing John Wick, I totally recommend going back and watching the first one. If you like what you see, then know that the following movies are completely more of the same.

And in this case, that is in no way a criticism. For some reason, I was under the impression that this was going to be the final part in this story, but much to my shock and joy, John Wick is going to continue for at least another part.

It’s odd, we’re starting to approach movie franchises in a way more akin to how we consume television. John Wick is just one more example of that, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Reward for investment is not something I’d expect Hollywood to take to so readily. But with the success of the MCU, I guess anything is possible now.

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