As I type this it has been roughly 24 hours since I took my reserved seat to see John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. A title and naming convention that lays out how much the filmmakers are aware of the monster they've created.
Normally, I'd save all my thoughts for the podcast but the John Wick series is special and this third installment illuminates something I've been failing to decode from the films. Parabellum is an aggregation of, and homage to, the films that came before it. This isn't a judgement on the quality of the film, simply a statement of fact. Look no further than the connection to Casablanca, the Raid films, and my favorite head-nod; the ceremonial film final fight.
Parabellum picks the perfect actor and martial arts personality to counter John Wick for the climactic battle of the film. Who may you ask? Mark Dacascos. Before you Google Mr. Dacascos, you know him from the Food Network's American version of Iron Chef. He was the ceremonial figurehead who kicked off every show. Other than Mr. Dacascos being introduced as a master sushi chef, the film pretty much leaves Iron Chef alone. What they really are paying service to is his film history in countless videogames, b-films, and TV series (Including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), but most importantly the 2001 cult action classic "Brotherhood of the Wolf."
I wont recount exactly how cool this is, but I will say filmmakers who respect their craft understand their work stands on the shoulders of films that came before them. John Wick 3 does this in spades to both its benefit and detriment. It even steps outside the medium and is very clearly reverential to video games. Look no further than the climactic showdown(s) in the showdown with Dascascos. There is one specific shot of Jardani Jovonovich that is unmistakable for a videogame avatar making its way to a level boss.
There are far too many films to list that pay service through homage to their predecessors. A quick cut across genres you can think of the pool scene in Old School paying tribute to The Graduate, Boogie Nights opening tracking shot honors Good Fellas, Maybe the most famous is The Untouchables train station shoot out mirroring the Battleship Potempkin careening carriage down the spanish steps. And let's not forget Pixar doing this in every film and Tarantino's entire career, most notably Kill Bill volume 1.But before I wrap this up I'd like to share my personal favorite homage, which is a bit of a Matryoshka doll situation.
In Star Wars: Episode 7 - The Force Awakens (Hey parallels to John Wick's ridiculous naming!), there is a completely wasted bit of plot where Ray & Fin meet Han & Chewie on a transport ship. Han is about to get killed by two rival space gangs when Ray sets loose two Rathtars, a bit of deus ex machina via unstoppable killer aliens. Now I am not a fan of the Force Awakens, I think it plays it safe far too much and wastes so much potential on stupid plot contrivances and opaque call backs to the previous saga installments. But this pointless scene is a beautiful paradox of a homage. I'm not certain this was on purpose but a junky transport ship that is attacked by a ruthless, killer alien? THAT IS THE PLOT OF ALIEN! My favorite film (depending on the day) of all-time. Now the paradox comes in when you factor in Alien (1979) was only greenlit because the studio wanted to replicate the success of Star Wars (1977). Now both films were ridiculously influential and have been paid tribute to time and again, but for a Star Wars film to slip in a side-adventure where the heroes have to survive a xenomorph stand-in... That deserves praise.
So John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum -for all its indulgences, triumphs, and failures- does one thing masterfully, that is homage. How do you know it is masterful? Well if it doesn't derail the average filmgoers attention and gives the cinephile a rush of endorphins you know you have succeeded. For more JW3P insights, Jacob and I will be discussing the film on FWOAC episode 236 coming later this week.
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