I just watched John Wick: Chapter 2 a few days ago. I’ve never watched the first movie before then, but I figured it was alright to watch the second movie since most action movies don’t require a lot of knowledge of the story of either the prequels or the world to appreciate them.
As expected, it didn’t really take a lot of context to watch the movie. I made a few assumptions of things that happened in the first movie to fill in the blanks. I watched the movie at a movie theatre with my girlfriend so I didn’t have the luxury of pausing the movie to ask her about the backstory from the first movie.
This post isn’t really a review of the movie, but I have to say that this is probably the best action film that I’ve ever watched. The fight scenes were awesome and the gunplay looked so realistic that even the bits where Keanu Reeves was just reloading his gun was so satisfying to watch. After the movie, I found the movie’s lore to be interesting enough to make me want to watch the first movie just so I can know where some of the things shown in the movie came from.
Yesterday, I watched the first John Wick movie. After watching it, I found out that only a few of my questions were answered. I still don’t know how John Wick owes Santino D’Antonio. I also don’t know what the Continental really is and how powerful its owner, Winston, is and how he relates to the criminal world. I’m still unaware of what those gold coins are and why it’s being used as the currency in the movie.
I eventually found myself with multiple tabs on my browser and they’re all about John Wick’s lore or story. I was so obsessed in finding out how some of the details in that world came to be. That’s when it hit me: this is the first time I’ve been interested in an action movie’s lore simply because of how great the movie is at world building and how the movie tells the viewer about the world. The world is revealed throughout both movies through subtle cues and some dialogue between the characters.
A good example is one of the scenes from the first movie where they establish how scary John Wick is. Aurelio, the owner of the garage, punched Iosef Tarasov as soon as he learned that Iosef stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog. Afterwards, Viggo, Iosef’s father, called Aurelio to question why the guy hit his son. As soon as Aurelio told him about who his son has stolen and killed from, Viggo ended with an “Oh” and hung up on the phone. The head of a crime syndicate getting chills down his spine as soon as he hears of the name of a person implies a lot of fear and the realization that his son messed up big time.
In the next scene, Viggo Tarason summoned his son, Iosef, and told him about who John Wick is. Afterwards, he called John Wick in hopes that he will be able to talk things out instead of resorting to violence. The scene implied that even the boss of this huge organization has a lot of fear and respect towards John Wick. That he is indeed the “Baba Yaga”.
In the second movie, it was heavily implied that John Wick was a well-respected assassin since everyone knows Wick and are glad that he is back from retirement. While I was watching that movie, I thought the first movie showed all of the feats that John Wick has done. I was surprised when it wasn’t showed and his backstory was really only hinted at.
Another great example about the film’s world building is in the second movie where it was revealed that the crime world is so big and organized that they have a guild and a “High Seat” of leaders among them. Alongside of that, the movie hints about how powerful the Continental and Winston is because everyone, even Santino D’Antonio who is in the High Seat, respects the rules of Continental about it being a neutral zone and how breaking the rules are met with dire consequences.
The bottomline is that the movie’s world is revealed through subtle hints through implication or character dialogue instead of being shown with flashbacks. It leaves a better impression on the viewers and will actually motivate them to read up about the world or be excited for a next movie. I know I am.