JOHN WICK IS BACK. Yes. So What?
Another week..another sequel! Which would be fine, in theory. Sequels ARE fun. Only an idiot would bemoan the existence of a formula that people clearly WANT to see replayed, right? All those ‘oh why do they keep rebooting /remaking /giving us sequels’ merchants: Hollywood makes them because people WATCH the product. If we stopped going, they’d stop making..very simple.
That said, a franchise or a series is a world of difference away from simply your part 2 / first follow up. And, whilst I am willing to be proven wrong, and everyone has indeed disagreed with me so far on this, that to me, is where JOHN WICK 2 is already so obnoxious, cynical and smug a product that I will be voting with feet and avoiding Wick’s wake.
The latest trailers reveal a fair deal. We know it’s a new mission. We know his dog is not at stake (yes, in part 1, in case you were unaware..Wick went to war..over a dead dog..and no that’s not a spoof). Hang on, you mean you did NOT know what happened in part 1? You DON’T know about JOHN WICK? NEVER heard of him? But they made at least ONE previous film, right?
And therein lies my point, exactly. The whole marketing /viral packaging here PRESUMES a relationship to this eponymous hero that simply has not been earned. The first film had immaculate action (its director has been poached to helm DEADPOOL 2) and a novel charm and it was good to see KEANU REEVES return to the genre as leading man.
But this is not a legendary character with some mythology behind him. His world is not particularly original or enticing. Yet the sequel trailers are all: get ready to return to this great world!’ ‘JOHN WICK!’. Anyone would think this were James Bond, Indiana jones, John McClane.
Heck, even Keanu’s characters from SPEED or THE MATRIX or BILL AND TED would have a more welcome fanfare on return. Instead, we are all TOLD that we of course MUST know (and by extension, love / care about /identify with / vicariously live through) JOHN WICK!
I have tried benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I am too sceptical and am simply not embracing the fun? Ok, fair enough. Yes! This must surely be an enticing fantasy, right? No. See, one rule of any character or fantasy is definition. I mentioned James Bond and John McClane, via Indiana Jones.
Bond is white collar: loves fine dining, beautiful women, high class, big stakes, outlandish action, via occasional ‘grit’. McClane = blue collar hero in white vest, who simply wants terrorists to leave him alone so he can confront bigger problems with wife /kids/career/hangover. Indiana Jones is a clear yet effective composite of white and blue collar; able to blend in at a black tie ball, lecture in his tweeds or then morph into a rough living cowboy style adventuring tomb raider for hire.
John Wick is..???????????. Well, we see him getting fitted for a top of the range tailored suit. Great! He loves suits, right? No. Because he is also still a hippy with long hair and a beard. So quite why he would even bother his arse getting a bespoke suit is simply beyond me. But he loves his guns, yes? This is a fetishised, designer violence kinda movie: pure fun, right? Well, sure. Except that he spends much of this trailer assuring us he has left that world behind.
So I’ll ignore those very basic failings in consistent character definition. It’s all just a bit of fun, right? Well, yeah, ok. There are nodding winks to the audience. ‘Get this man a GUN!’ says a sorta mentor, played by Laurence Fishburne. That’s like an IN-JOKE reference to THE MATRIX, right? It could be, were there any indication of actual THOUGHT invested here. It’s probably just random coincidence.
So maybe Fishburne is not meant to be the mentor. We have Ian McShane for that. Ah yes, McShane (itself sounding like a better action hero name than ‘Wick’). You could literally cut and paste McShane’s lines, smile and calm, smooth, half menacing / half reassuring/not quite decided by directors presence from pretty much any trailer of late. Seriously..he’s a good actor..give him something to do?
We are left with pure style. And visually, this does look beautiful. But then, it’s Rome with car chases. How can that not look anything other than wonderful? The location writes itself. How do I know this? Because for all its flaws, the recent JAMES BOND movie, SPECTRE, had some truly sumptuous action, in Rome. Bond was up against a secret society.
It appears that JOHN WICK will also attend an event. For a secret society. In Rome. A secret society of ASSASSINS. They want to hunt down and kill Wick. Maybe they also want Fassbender and McAvoy? Yawn. The hunt will be conducted it seems by..Russians? In Italy. To the music of the 4 Seasons by Vivaldi and 1812 by Tchaikovsky, which naturally, have never been used before in every advert / movie etc.
JOHN WICK 2 might turn out to be hugely entertaining. And it could be just shamelessly derivative, popcorn caper FUN. With adrenaline fuelled, choreographed ACTION. And that’s great! I’m just taking a stand against audiences being conned into accepting a fast tracked, second rate hero, wrapped in the packaging of leftovers from other, better film series.
Find out for yourself within weeks.