The Weekend Movie Takeaway: 'John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum'
May 20, 2019
Well, it was another huge weekend for storytelling — three days during which our collective obsession with narrative was once again thrust to the center of the cultural conversation.
Firstly: the box office.
The biggest movie of the year, possibly of all-time, was finally dethroned from the top spot over the weekend. And all it took was a softly-spoken assassin. Avengers: Endgame still earned $29.4 million in its fourth weekend in theaters, bringing its domestic total to $770 million. That haul takes Endgame past Avatar to make it the second-highest domestic grosser of all-time, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
While it's not over yet for Avengers: Endgame, the sucess of the film will be felt in storytelling for years to come, but its time in the top spot has come to an end. The film that finally dislodged it from the number one position — John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum — stands as a notable counterpoint to Endgame. Whereas the Avengers movie represents the height of digital cinematic sophistication, the Wick franchise is much more focused on grounded, practical effects and stunt-heavy fight scenes.
Similarly, while Endgame marks the culmination of what could be described as a 22-movie long story, John Wick is less concerned with plot, and more focused on character. Specifically, characters kicking a lot of ass.
That isn't to say that John Wick doesn't have narrative ambitions. The unique mythology of the world it takes place in has continued to expand from film to film, but you would hesitate to accuse John Wick moviegoers of being showing up for the story — they are there to see Keanu kick butt with style.
Yet, John Wick's (realtively) austere style is already being felt in other action movies, while its uncompromised belief in its own world-building should be an inspiration for storytellers everywhere.
Although Parabellum was kind of marketed as the culmination of the Wick franchse, we're likely to be seeing many more of these films when you factor in how each subsequent entry has practically doubled the opening weekend gross of its predecessor: the first film earned $14 in its opening weekend, Chapter 2 took in $30 million, and Chapter 3 earned a cool $57 million over this past weekend. The Wick Universe isn't going anywhere, any time soon.
While Endgame slipping down to the number two spot is indeed momentous, the most notable narrative activity over the weekend occurred on the (slightly) small (er) screen with the final episode of Game of Thrones.
In an increasingly fractured media environment, there are very few occasions when the whole world stops to watch something together, at the same time. The Game of Thrones finale is the closest we've come to such an event in a long time, and the conversation surrounding the final season of the show speaks volumes about the degree of ownership audiences project upon the stories they consume.
This reached ridiculous levels with the existence of a petition calling for the entire final season to be re-made. It demonstrates just how entitled modern audiences tend to be about the stories they love most, and while it shouldn't impact storytelling going forward, it most likely will as the powers that be are always looking for more guaranteed methods of giving audiences what they think they want.
It's a worrying trend that doesn't bode well for storytelling — the authors need to be driving the stories, not the audience. But Hollywood, and the kind of storytelling it propogates, has survived worse.
Written by: Dominic CorryDominic Corry is a Los Angeles-based film critic, writer, journalist and broadcaster. Raised in New Zealand, he is also the West Coast editor of Letterboxd, the social network for movie lovers. For more of his film writing, see his website www.TheGoodInMovies.com