A few notes on John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

jwick.jpgI believe the nicest part of watching a John Wick film is that you don’t need to watch them in order. I watched John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum with almost no knowledge of the previous two films and I was still able to enjoy it thoroughly. Were a few plot points and relationships unclear to me? Sure. Did that affect my overall enjoyment of the film? Not in the slightest. In fact, John Wick 3 accomplishes a lot more in its relatively confining genre than its other contemporaries. Action films are about very few things. I’ve overheard a lot of my friends call films like John Wick “brain dead movies.” While that may seem like a rather demeaning term I believe it succinctly describes an entertaining concept. It’s rather refreshing to not have to think so hard about a film and enjoy it for the pure spectacle that it really is, and I think the John Wick franchise captures that idea perfectly.

Another one of the many things the John Wick series of films does well is theming. At the start of John Wick 3, the audience is immediately thrown into the dark side of New York. The parts where angels fear to tread and only the worst criminals would even dare to inhabit. It’s a rather cold open but I think it fits nicely considering the rather dark tone of the film. This immense focus on world building is what makes John Wick a cut above the rest. When the stage is set so purposefully it makes the inevitable action that is bound to come along with it a lot more comprehensive and enjoyable. As I said before, even with no explanation I was still able to get into the film and its plot with relative ease and I believe that’s what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. John Wick uses its simple story very effectively in order to make itself more accessible.

While I still haven’t watched the previous two films it’s my understanding these things have been a precedent throughout the series. Here are a few other things John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum does well that I’ve been told has been done well in the previous films.

  • Fight scenes with no music

A film with no score is like a body without bones. It is an integral part of storytelling that can be used for better or for worse. It is incredibly difficult to score a scene however it is equally as difficult to know when not to score one. However, John Wick 3 is one film that understands when not to score. Many of the early fight scenes in the film have no soundtrack at all. The only sounds that occupy the empty space are the grunts of Wick and the various foley sound effects. Music is typically used to make a scene more tense and exciting but John Wick subverts this common practice opting to take a much more immersive approach. This, in turn, accentuates the ambient sounds and physical noises of the characters. Necks snapping, flesh tearing, arms breaking, and in one scene, horses kicking, all of it sounds and feels so real. As a member of the audience, you really feel like you’re in the film watching it happen live. Long takes and handheld camera movements also add to the overall sense of immersion of the film and when combined with no music John Wick truly feels authentic.

  • Amazing sound design

Every sound is so loud it feels like everything has been dialed up to eleven.  Remember the first gunshot in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and how that was so loud and impactful? Well, imagine that for an entire film. Every gunshot fired, every bone that breaks, every piece of glass that shatters can be heard with a disturbing amount of clarity. This, once again, adds to the authenticity of the film. It makes every punch and hit seem that much harder. There were times where I actually found myself reacting to the punches on screen. The quality of the sound effects is also incredibly polished. There was obviously a great deal of care put into making everything sound and feel realistic.

  • Interesting subtitles

This is one of the more strange things about John Wick 3 but its something I found to be one part comedic and another part fascinating. Often times in films the subtitles are like this omniscient part of the screen. In English speaking films whenever there’s a scene that calls for subtitles I always wonder why they even needed to do it. I’ve maintained the idea that subtitles ruin the immersion and my overall suspension of disbelief. However, John Wick 3 has a different way of doing subtitles. Instead of doing static text at the bottom of the screen, the subtitles themselves are alive and part of the scene. A lot of latent intent can be derived from reading the animated text. It’s quite difficult to explain this idea adequately without any visual aid but honestly, it’s more something to experience than to simply see.

Overall John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is a good film. Action movies are often grouped within their own little field of mediocrity but what ultimately sets them apart are the choices made by its filmmakers.

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