John Wick: Chapter 3 sports the flashy subtitle Parabellum, but what exactly does that mean? Back in 2014, Keanu Reeves came back in a major way with the original John Wick, which was widely praised for its innovative action sequences and surprisingly emotional story. Grossing $88.7 million worldwide against its modest $20 million production budget, the film proved popular enough to spawn a sequel. 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2 was an even bigger hit, expanding its fascinating criminal underworld and pitting John against even more insurmountable odds.
This summer, the story continues John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. The film picks up straight after the events of its predecessor, with John on the run after violating Continental ground rules. Our hero has a cool $14 million price on his head, and everyone wants a piece of it. Keeping that premise in mind, it's easy to see why the creative team went with the Parabellum title.
As Reeves explained earlier when the title was first confirmed, "parabellum" is the Latin word for "prepare for war." Parabellum's English translation is featured in the marketing via tagline "If you want peace, prepare for war." While at the time this was assumed to mean that in John Wick 3 the hero would be in a bloody war against the world he was once a part of, the truth is a little more complex.
WARNING: Spoilers for John Wick 3 ahead.
In John Wick 3, he is indeed out on his own, but is looking to survive as much as wage war. It's only in the film's third act where, after returning under the purview of the High Table but then refusing to assassinate Continental manager Winston, that the war - between John and the hotel against the High Table - begins: Ian McShane even outright says "Parabellum". After much bloodshed, a parlay is called between Winston and The Adjudicator, with the entire conflict written off as a show of force. However, for this to happen, John Wick - the root cause - must die. Winston shoots and seemingly kills his friend, although John is saved by the Bowery King who promises revenge.
The real war is still to come: John Wick is angry and wants to take the fight to the Continental and the High Table. So, really, John Wick 3 was preparing for a war to come in Chapter 4. That's what the Parabellum title really means.
In essence, this is the moment the entire John Wick franchise has been building to. Because of all the decisions he's made over the years, the former hitman finds himself in this predicament, and he needs to literally fight his personal war in order to change things for the better. Hopefully both Wick and his dog are able to find greener pastures in John Wick 4.
- John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019) release date: May 17, 2019