Back in 2014, Keanu Reeves enjoyed the comeback to end all comebacks when he slaughtered his way through several criminal organizations to avenge his dog in the visceral, action-packed thriller John Wick. The movie was quickly followed by a sequel named John Wick: Chapter 2 in 2017, which was followed by another sequel named John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum in 2019, and the franchise doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. The great thing is that there hasn’t been a weak John Wick movie yet. Each one of them has excelled in its own areas. So, here are 3 Things Each John Wick Movie Did Better Than The Others.
9 John Wick: Giving John a relatable motivation
All three John Wick movies have given the title character a motivation. In the first one, he’s avenging the death of his dog. In the second one, he’s doing a contractually obligated job and then killing the guy who made him do it. In the third one, he’s fighting to clear his excommunicado. But none of the sequels have managed to get the audience to root for John as much as the original movie did. No story crux since the heartless murder of that adorable puppy has gripped viewers quite as much. Avenging his puppy’s murder is what made John Wick an icon.
8 Chapter 2: Expanding the worldbuilding
One of the things that stood out in the first John Wick film was how intricate the worldbuilding was. Primarily, there was the Continental, a hotel chain for assassins. The sequels have continued to expand on this worldbuilding, and arguably, Chapter 2 did the best job of weaving the worldbuilding into the plot. We get a deeper sense than ever of the scale of this criminal underworld — the High Table governing everything, the Bowery King and his network of killers disguised as homeless people, the concept of an “excommunicado” etc. — and it always feels integral to the story. Like all the best worldbuilding, it doesn’t distract from the plot; it advances it.
7 Parabellum: Hand-to-hand combat scenes
The fight scenes in the first John Wick movie set a high benchmark, but the fight scenes in the second one failed to raise the bar significantly. Then, Chapter 3 came along with its breathtakingly choreographed hand-to-hand combat scenes. The threequel presented a unique situation.
Whereas the bad guys in the first and second movies are fighting for their lives, the bad guys in the third movie (at least the primary villains, who are recruited by the High Table) are just as skilled as John, and they enjoy the challenge of fighting John Wick. If they knock him down, they give him a sportsmanlike chance to get back up before continuing the fight. Plus, Chapter 3 had those awesome attack dogs.
6 John Wick: Neo-noir visuals
Chad Stahelski and his uncredited co-director David Leitch have named a whole host of influences on John Wick, from anime to martial arts movies to Spaghetti Westerns. Above all, it looks and feels like a neo-noir, utilizing a cast of morally ambiguous characters and stark lighting effects, like Jimmy’s siren flashing through the windows or silhouetting the gun fu with the flashing lights of a nightclub. The subsequent John Wick movies have maintained the neon-tinged color palette of the original, but not the camera angles and lighting style of the neo-noir that made the original feel so spectacular and refreshing.
5 Chapter 2: Well-paced plotting
The first John Wick movie doesn’t have much of a plot (which is sort of the point — it’s a relentless action thriller) and the third one veers wildly between slow-paced and fast-paced, jumping from John teaming up with Halle Berry and two vicious dogs to take down dozens of assailants to John walking through an empty desert landscape. John Wick: Chapter 2 had a compelling plot with a lot of forward momentum and nailed the pacing of it. When it slowed down, it didn’t slow down too much; just enough to show us the next development that would lead to more action.
4 Parabellum: Creative action set pieces
Obviously, the action scenes in all of the John Wick movies are creative. It’s been one of the main selling points of the franchise (along with Keanu Reeves) since the beginning. But the third and most recent film went above and beyond in setting up interesting set pieces. For example, a medieval weapons museum allows for axes and swords to be brutally used in close combat. A hansom cab company allows John to use horses’ hind legs as weapons, and paves the way for John to ride a horse through the streets of New York. The action set pieces in Parabellum use their settings creatively.
3 John Wick: Gun fu
Invented entirely for action movies, gun fu — also known as bullet ballet or gymnastic gunplay — is a 50/50 mixture of gunfighting and martial arts. It’s featured in all of the John Wick movies, but while the second one’s fights aren’t as astounding as the original’s and the third one involves fewer firearms in its close-quarters combat, 2014’s John Wick has possibly the best gun fu outside of its creator John Woo’s filmography. Gunplay would be slowly fazed out of the John Wick sequels to maintain their unpredictability (although it is still a large part of the action), because the original already nailed it.
2 Chapter 2: Cliffhanger ending
John Wick was conceived as a long-running franchise, sort of like a serial, so it’s no surprise that every movie has left things open-ended before the credits roll. The first one gave some closure in case there never was a sequel, with John taking a new dog from the vet, while the third one set up the forthcoming Chapter 4 with both John and the Bowery King swearing vengeance against the High Table.
But it’s arguably the second one that has the best cliffhanger, with an excommunicado being placed on John and a hit being put on his head. He ran out into the streets of New York City, with every assassin in the world going after him.
1 Parabellum: Gripping opening scene
Partly owing to the cliffhanger ending of John Wick: Chapter 2, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’s opening scene instantly grips the audience. The original begins with a lot of setup, which was its obligation as the first chapter of the story, and the second one begins with John violently reclaiming his car before slowing down for a while. But the third one begins with John’s final hours under the High Table’s protection before his excommunicado takes effect. Every assassin in New York wants to kill him for that ever-increasing $14 million bounty on his head, and he’s on his own.