Why All the Love for John Wick?

John WickWhen discussing Hollywood filmmaking, I always have to come back to Laurie Anderson’s song “Big Science,” “I think we should put some mountains here. Otherwise, what are all the characters going to fall off of?” I tend to think of the song as deeply spiritual — questioning the nature of existence and time. But that one line pretty much sums up how Hollywood makes movies. These movies are to story telling what legos are to architecture. And even that if giving most films too much credit. And it is certainly giving John Wick too much credit.

I wanted to see the film. For one, I’m a Keanu Reeves fan. And I like revenge stories. And above all, I’m willing to meet a film on its own terms. But it was just bad. It had just about every comic book movie cliche in it. I’ve always felt that my greatest weakness as a fiction writer is my dialog. But listening to the dialog in this film was bad — like Jail Bait bad. The action sequences are all retreads of The Matrix. And the characters all act exactly as is necessary to move the plot along. That generally means they act stupidly.

Let us consider Viggo, the main villain. In order to save his life, he gives up his son to John Wick. Wick then kills the son and it is done. But then it is revealed that Marcus was working for Wick (this comes as absolutely no surprise unless you think that an assassin with rifle scope is incompetent — on multiple occasions). So what does Viggo do? He kidnaps Marcus and tortures him to death so that John Wick will come back and kill him. After having given up his son, why would he do this? There’s only one reason: because the screenwriter didn’t bother to write a credible motivation for the final confrontation.

But the critics have generally raved about the film. Why? Because it is so stylish! Well, it is stylish. It looked a hell of a lot like Constantine — made almost a decade earlier. The critics also liked the action, which as I said, was just a rehashing of The Matrix (15 years earlier). So John Wick puts together two previous Reeves films — but without the interesting plots that those films offered. And this is apparently enough.

Will people still think this is a great film in 25 years like they do “The Killer”? I’m sure they won’t.

Here’s the funny thing: John Wick works on its own terms. It tries to be nothing but violence porn — a big budget Ichi the Killer — and it succeeds at this. But the critics can’t talk about that. They have to talk about “style.” Meanwhile, they dump all over Krippendorf’s Tribe, even though it fully delivers the silly nonsense that it intends.

There is a tradition of this. Critics are much more likely to judge a drama (if that’s the right word for John Wick) on its own terms than they are a comedy. Just look at the critical response to Ishtar, which is a hilarious film. It has a 28% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes; John Wick has an 85% fresh rating.

So when it comes to John Wick, I will say what I usually say about films: it succeeds on its own terms. But that is not what critics normally say. What’s going on is that critics decide that they like a film and justify it. In the case of this film, there really isn’t much to like. It is what it is, but who enjoys this kind of thing? Will people still think this is a great film in 25 years like they do The Killer? I’m sure they won’t. But John Wick is passable. It’s enough like things we’ve seen Keanu Reeves do before, so it must be good. And God help us, they are making another one.

20 thoughts on “Why All the Love for John Wick?

    • I’ve seen it. I’m somewhat bothered by just how much they know about guns. But these are very good. In general, I prefer Honest Trailers.

      • This is the US, depending on where you are and who you grow up around, it is absorbed like vitamin D is when you spend time in the sun.

        • The truth is that when it comes to films, I don’t notice details. I get too involved in the story. That’s why I love horror films: they really scare me because I live them. But still: empty shell casings?! Come on!

          • *laughs* Cinema Sins does point out that they are a bunch of nitpicking assholes, especially when they are doing a film that they love as much as everyone else.

            Horror has to go a long way to scare me. Munich, which was not a horror film, unsettled me so much it should have been considered such. So I am more likely to notice details while watching the movie.

            • Yes, the people who do that stuff do love the films. This is something I’ve always thought was a distinction between the Joel and Mike periods of MST3K — the Joel people loved the films and the Mike period did not. Munich was incredibly frightening — although more like Three Days of the Condor. A great horror film is Synecdoche, New York. It is about a man who tries to create a play about the entire world. He spends his whole life doing it. And this is the end. But I mostly like haunted house movies like The Others.

              • Synecdoche, New York was a horror movie? I did not know that.

                I enjoyed Absentia as a horror film. For a low budget movie (made with about $70,000 from what I understand) it was superbly done. I am not surprised that the director went on to better budgeted movies like Oculus.

                • Well, not a traditional horror film. But Synecdoche, New York is definitely what Charlie Kaufman thinks of as a horror film. He said he wanted to create a film that had all the things he was most afraid of. I love the final word in the film. It is the director giving the final cue, “Die.” Of course, by that point, death does not seem that bad. To me, what is most horrific about it is watching a man trying to understand why he is alone in the universe. We are all the same but apart. It is the loneliest film ever made.

                  • Possibly because of how lonely I have been most of my life, I don’t find being lonely that terrifying. Being unwanted-now that is terrifying.

                    Since you like ghost stories-what did you think of The Awakening or did you post something on that and I missed it? *goes to check*

                    • I haven’t seen it. The problem is that my horror film friend Andrea lives 3000 miles away. I really miss going to the movies with her.

                    • I don’t think it had a theatrical release or if it did, it was not heavily advertised. It is on Netflix I think still. *checks* Yep.

                      I think you would like it.

                    • When you do things like “checks* it makes me think you might be a chatbot!

                      I’ve requested it from the library. I’ll see if I can get my sister to watch it with me.

                    • Chatbots are way more interesting then I am. They have programming to make them entertaining which is why sex bots will eventually replace women according to MGTOW.

                      I would have offered to tweet watch with you but you disapprove of my paying attention to multiple things at once like when I watch early MST3K while chatting with you on Twitter.

                    • Is MGTOW one of those men’s rights groups? I just found out that Scott Adams is one of those guys. I can’t tell you how much that bums me out, because I do still like Dilbert.

                      Have you read my article, Cleverbot Not So Clever? And just recently, I was involved in a group effort creating a large infographic (out soon, it is titled — By me! — “How to Avoid Falling in Love With a ChatBot”). I can tell you: they suck! The only reason people think they are any good is because they mistake non sequitur with cleverness. You can’t really have conversations with them. It is just call and response. In physics, we call it reversibility. A human conversation is not reversible — you can’t figure out where it started by looking at where it ended. With two chatbots you can. Sorry. I really hate chatbots. I also wrote an article for the same people called, “Is It Time to Take Killer Robots Seriously?” Robots are going to start killing us because they start conversing with us.

                    • Yes it is disappointing. I knew he was kind of a jerk based on an encounter I had with him via email and I kind of side eyed at a few of his comments on women and cursing but until Futrelle tangled with him, I had no idea how deep his sexism went. He really thinks he is the smartest person in the room at all times which cannot be the case based on his startling lack of knowledge in a lot of areas.

                      No, I had not read it. A lot of your stuff seems to not be tagged which means I am going to have to literally do older posts until I get to the end. It is a tough row to hoe but I am really stubborn and I shall do it! I have no idea why outside of my own innate need to know everything even when I am confused by it.

                    • Ah yes. You see, about a year ago, we moved from Nucleus to WordPress. The categories did not get transferred correctly because of the different ways that the two systems deal with it. Slowly, I am getting the stuff fixed. I think roughly the last two years have been fixed. And then it is sporadic after that.

                      I wonder if Scott Adams is a libertarian. Thinking you are the smartest guy in the room is one of the defining characteristics of a libertarian.

                  • I know for a fact because I asked him in that email exchange I mentioned. Luckily he is also too arrogant to vote.

                    • You mean that he is a libertarian? I still find it fascinating that society’s “winners” are likely to be attracted to libertarianism. They are completely clueless about the “veil of ignorance.” Of course, I think they are deeply confused about just how great their lives would be in a libertarian utopia. Check out the beginning of this David Cay Johnston lecture. He talks about taxes and how important they are for people staying rich. I’m afraid I now have what is known as a man crush on him.

                    • Yes, sorry, I was on my cell phone so sometimes I forget to include every word I should.

                      Everyone knows about your man crush on DCJ, are you just now figuring it out? :P

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