Monday, February 19, 2024

Introduction to Best of 2023, and Not on the List: John Wick 4

Welcome to the Best (Hollywood) Movies of 2023 List! Sometimes, I’ve included world cinema on this list, but this year I decided to stick to Hollywood, which means that the wonderful Anatomy of a Fall did not make the list. As always, I’ll start with the movies I wish I’d seen: Past Lives, Zone of Interest, Wonka, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, No Hard Feelings, Wish, Elementals, and The Boy and the Heron. So don’t expect to see those either.

I will now begin with a few days of movies that I did see but didn’t make the list, and, as always, try to glean some writing advice from them:

Not on the List: John Wick Chapter 4

One movie I greatly enjoyed this year and almost made the list was John Wick Chapter 4. Ultimately it didn’t because, like so many movies this year, including some that made the list, it was too ridiculously long.

I’ve been saying throughout the year that I should move to Hollywood and get a job as the “Cut 20 Minutes Out Guy”. I could get rich, just taking the finished edits and cutting 20 minutes out just before release. (I would also have loved to take my scissors to Indiana Jones 5, another movie that didn’t make the list.)

But there was another problem as well, which speaks to one of the pitfalls of relying on irony.

Major spoilers for the movie! Stop reading here if you haven’t seen this fun movie yet.

So this movie, and this series, ends when John Wick is shot and killed in a duel with a blind assassin.

But here’s the problem: If the whole series comes down to a gun duel with a blind man, there’s only one way it can end. If our hero easily shoots and kills a blind man, that’s lame and anti-climactic. We’d say “Of course he beat the blind man in a duel!” The only way the story works is if the blind man kills him. But it’s not good to have a story that only works one way. Irony is great but it shouldn’t be the only non-lame option.

(And can we talk about how weird it was that this movie lifted characters wholesale from two other movies? Didn’t Donny Yen already play a blind assassin in Rogue One? I kept thinking, “They wouldn’t hire the same actor to play the same character? Am I just racist and I can’t tell Asian actors apart?”  Nope, it was the same actor playing the same character. And the radio DJ is lifted straight from The Warriors! I guess these were homages? Some borrowing is too wholesale to count as homage.)

1 comment:

Seb said...

I love all of your thoughts and writings on stories, by the way! (Even though I don't always agree with your opinions...but that's the nature of opinions haha!)

Gotta call out on this one though--Donnie Yen's character from Rogue One isn't anything like the John Wick character? I don't think it's racist but it might be...sight-est? Yes, they are both blind, and display martial prowess...but in Rogue One he is a warrior priest, and we know nothing about his abilities or training or background, and his entire success seems to be derived from his faith/"the Force". He's certainly not an "assassin", though!