HomeEntertainment‘John Wick’: Did the Film Break One Cardinal Film Making Rule?

‘John Wick’: Did the Film Break One Cardinal Film Making Rule?

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Lionsgate )

“John Wick” is certainly an unconventional series of films. The story itself is new and interesting, but there’s one aspect of the storytelling in “John Wick” that really makes it different from other films.

There’s no origin story. Not in the conventional sense that movies usually give us. John’s background isn’t given in flashbacks or an established beginning. When we find him, he’s already retired, putting us firmly in the present. There are some moments when we realize that his wife died, but for the most part, we get no background about him until the you-know-what hits the fan.

There’s concept in writing and art where you have to learn the rules first before you can break them. The “John Wick” writers did just that; they know the rules, and they feel confident in breaking them. That’s why John has no origin. It trickles down to us from various encounters with friends and foes. We slowly learn things about his past as it happens in the present.

That, in my opinion, is what makes a great story. I don’t want an infodump at the beginning of my movie and I don’t like flashbacks very much. I appreciate a movie more that keeps its protagonist a secret until the moments when it’s crucial for information to be revealed. This works exceptionally well for “John Wick” because he’s supposed to be such a mysterious character. Secrets are revealed gradually, instead of all at once. We’re firmly rooted in the present in “John Wick,” in all aspects, which makes for incredibly interesting storytelling.

The ‘John Wick’ Expanded Universe We Didn’t Know About

In terms of John’s backstory, that comes in the form of the graphic novel, which follows a young John Wick as he becomes Baba Yaga. In the films, John is much more willing to work with criminals and lowlifes than he was when he was younger.

He feels he has nothing to lose; he’s already established as the most feared man basically ever, some guys killed his dog, and he’s out for revenge. He’s going to get it any way that he can, and we know that he has the means.

In the graphic novel, everything is different. This is John’s origin story, and we see him become who we know in the films. There’s a twist to John, though; when he first started out, he only killed other hitmen, people who did worse things and deserved to die. “John Wick” got the “Dexter” treatment, apparently. It’s a good strategy, though, one we see fly out the window in the films.

John is older, he’s retired, he’s not in the game anymore. But, when he takes up his old mantle again, he’s even more dangerous than he was as a younger man. Because now he has nothing, and there’s nothing holding him back from utter destruction in the name of revenge.