Action movies are often criticized for being testosterone-fueled entertainment filled with unnecessary explosions and graphic gore. The template for an average action movie involves muscle shirts, flimsy plots and bloody fist fights on rooftops while flaming helicopters fall from the sky. However, that template has been recently challenged by a trilogy of movies by the name of “John Wick.”
The first John Wick movie came out in 2014. It had a number of features that separates it from other movies of its time. The most noticeable of these features would be the limited cuts, especially during the fight scenes. This leads to complicated fight choreography such as gun-fu (kung-fu with incorporated firearms) and a smoother, more sleek-feeling scene. Once again this is a huge difference from the “Fast and Furious” action sub-genre, where the camera is constantly cutting and shaking.
Another aspect of John Wick that makes it the marker of a new era of movies is the world building. The world that John Wick takes place in doesn’t just serve as the reason that he goes around shooting people, but it is a fully built criminal underground with different organizations that control different sectors and an organization that rules them all. Within each of these movies, the world is being added to, instead of just existing as it was. The whole world creates an aesthetic of class and intrigue.
John Wick himself is also another interesting distinction from the norm. Instead of Wick being the “retired army officer adorned with metals” who is constantly on the good side, he has depth. Wick is not written to be a “good” guy. The audience can sympathize with his mission and he seems a bit less ruthless than other characters in the universe. However, he doesn’t fight for others, he absolutely doesn’t take prisoners — often times taking unnecessary actions to make sure his enemies are dead — and he also has been shown to be selfish in his actions, pushed only by his need for revenge. Not to mention his shady past as a hitman.
There is also excellent cinematography in all of the movies, whether it be the club scene from the first movie, which featured red and blue lights, the mirror maze from the second movie, where the audience could never really tell who was where, or the final battle scene of the latest movie, which showcases transparent glass walls, allowing Wick to trick his enemies. The settings are not just backdrops for explosions and headshots — they are works of art themselves.
If you need any further evidence that John Wick changed the action movie industry forever, you need look no further then what has become of the industry after 2014. There have been multiple movies featuring the Wick style: "Red Sparrow," "Anna," "Kingsmen," "Hotel Artemis." All of these movies dip into the world building and cinematic style pioneered in the John Wick movies. Not to mention the fact that there have been two more John Wick movies made with more movies in the making and spinoffs.