The John Wick franchise has been gaining traction and not only expanding its world but its fan base as well. Keanu Reeves' career has also seen a massive resurgence, so much so he's now in talks to star in a new project for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Yet, with all the hype and excitement surround the world of Wick, or Wick-verse, the magic that the narrative and the franchise had within the first two films, seems to be slowly losing its focus and even more importantly losing its sense of purpose.
Picking up minutes after John Wick 2, John Wick 3: Parabellum, sees our hero fleeing the streets of New York as the clock tick-tocks against him, and assassins close in on him to collect on the bounty on his head - a bounty that goes from $14 million to $15 million within the first twenty minutes in the film.
As all the pieces begin moving, the narrative begins to lose its direction as the writers for the first time seem to have more characters than they can handle. It seems strange that in a world where narratives prefer ensembles instead of single hero driven stories, that screenwriters continue to struggle with balancing more than one plot within a film.
This is not to say that the narrative fails, but it does render some of the moments completely flat, or even worse, rushed. Taking Wick away from New York City and having him travel across the world, separating him from the small box that is the city did more harm than good.
You see, sometimes the more you expand upon a very specific world, a world that was pretty much well established in two films, you can fall into the trap of overspreading the narrative to the point where it feels rather dull, and tasteless.
Though many of those minor expansions worked, some just felt unnecessary and the screenwriters could have used that time wisely building more on the world they'd already built.
The final act of the film brings re-shifts focus back onto the Continental, where the High Table sends their armed forces to take down John, Winston, and the protectors of the hotel. This is only thirty minutes of the film, whereas could have easily been longer and a lot more detailed, violent, and purposeful.
Keanu Reeves, who does most of his stunts, and co. do what they can to bring life to the narrative and colorize a world that is becoming darker than the Long Night, but unfortunately, with all their work, the film still doesn't really leave much of a mark.
From a technical level, the film is masterful and truly raises the bar in action film-making to that of Mission Impossible: Fallout. This film evolves gun-fu and takes onto the streets on motorcycles, horses, within libraries, upon the rooftops of the Continental, and the deserts of Casablanca.
The aggressive editing, mixed with the seriously engaging and high-octane long takes, keeps the viewer's eyes attached to the screen unable to breathe, or blink. Yet, with all that, somewhere along the line, the duration of those fight scenes becomes a bit too long, making the phrase: less is more, hold all forms of relevance and meaning.
Less is more - something that even the creators of Game of Thrones missed out on during the final episodes of the series. Taking the time to give the audience a breath within the duration of John Wick 3, would have aided a lot in the reception of the film, and heck even understanding the narrative as a whole.
Instead, the audience exits the film feeling a bit empty.
The blurring of the lines between practical and visual effects is not always invisible, and some scenes suffer from this. The motorcycle scene though magical due to the long take technique, still has very visible green screen moments.
This is not to say that the film is not entertaining in the moment, because trust me, it very much is, but what happens minutes, hours, and days after watching the film is the slow realization that John Wick 3 is, much like most of the recent films coming out of Hollywood lately, all about the immediate experience and not necessarily about watching it again or the long-lasting effect.
With confirmation that a fourth chapter in the John Wick universe is coming to the silver screens next year, it is quite clear that where Hollywood finds comfort it shall stay even if it overstays its welcome.
There has been a serious lack of heart in films, lack of moments that stick with us for years, lines of dialogue that move us, action sequences that cause our jaws to drop, as we hold our breath and throw our fists in the air. John Wick is one of those recent victims to this. What was once a story that made you cheer, has slowly become one of predictability and serious plot armor.
The problem that arises is that audiences will no longer fully engage with the main protagonist and will be more mentally checked out, which is a dangerous precedent.
The world of John Wick deserves the narrative to be just as advanced as its visual landscape, and seeing as to how the franchise seems to be far from over, let’s hope that the next entry will do just that.
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