John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: Forced Creativity is Still Creativity (Spoiler-Free) + Weird Theory

SpoilerFree

John Wick is back and killing people, but this time he’s being hunted by an entire army of professional assassins.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Starting a few minutes after the last movie ended, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on the run from the “High Table” that apparently controls all of the mobs in the world after shooting Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), one of the members of the High Table who betrayed him in the previous film, while on sacred ground. The High Table has excommunicated him from all mob resources and has put a bounty on his head of $14 million, attracting every assassin in the world. John must figure out a way to get rid of the bounty while fighting off an amount of killers that makes it seem like most of the global population murders for money.

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Admittedly, after killing hundreds of other people, he might forget how to not kill people.

END SUMMARY

I loved John Wick. It was an amazing action movie that basically stripped down the story as much as possible without sacrificing emotional impact and providing a lot of worldbuilding with minimum exposition. Mostly, the long-take fight sequences provided a much desired counterbalance to the rapid cut and fast moving fights we see in most other action movies, particularly those in the MCU. It’s not that the other style is bad, but it definitely feels more dramatic to be able to just show the action in its completeness, particularly since it shows the real, and extremely impressive, skills of the stunt performers. It also allows for some more aesthetically creative fights without diminishing the brutality of the violence.

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Also, the use of color is… just amazing.

This movie continues all of that, but it becomes clear quickly that the filmmakers are realizing that they are running out of ways to keep making gunfights interesting without seeming repetitive, so they very cleverly figure out ways to force the fights to be different. Sometimes it’s by adding other people or animals, sometimes it’s by keeping John from having a gun and forcing them to improvise, sometimes it’s by reducing the effectiveness of John’s weapons, but the key is that every action sequence in the movie still feels original. Is it sometimes a little forced, like they have to go out of their way to avoid showing John having a gun or being able to just wreck all of the bad guys the way he previously has? Yeah, a little, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.

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I mean, he uses a horse as a weapon. That’s just neat.

The world in which the film is set is expanded upon a lot, including showing us some more of the inner workings of the nebulous organization that the High Table oversees. The worldbuilding continues to be interesting and the characters that populate it are all compelling, even if they’re just a clever variation on an archetype, like the wise poor man or the shadowy ninja assassin. We also get a little more background on Wick himself, but not enough to remove the air of mystery and badass that surrounds him.

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Also, Halle Berry has amazing dogs.

Basically, if you liked the first two movies, you’ll like this one.

WEIRD FAN THEORY (Mild Spoilers)

John is actually Koschei the Deathless from Russian Mythology. Now, give me a minute on this:

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I mean, they even both have… beards… and skin?

John Wick’s motivation is that someone killed his dog and stole his car. At least, that’s the ostensible motive. The reality is that the dog was a gift from his late wife and the car contained one of the last mementos he had left of her. Thus, when John loses them, he is losing a part of her, the great love of his life for whom he moved heaven and Earth… or, more precisely, killed an absolutely enormous amount of people in one night, essentially accomplishing an impossible task in order to be with her. The rage that fuels John is the desire to retain the powerful love he felt for the woman he lost. Essentially, he’s doing terrible things because he no longer has his heart.

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Her C.O.D. says “Plot and Motivation.” Common for women in movies.

One thing that comes up repeatedly in the films is that John’s nickname is “Baba Yaga,” translated from Russian as “the Boogeyman.” However, at one point in the first film, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) points out that John’s not actually the Boogeyman, he’s the one you send to kill the Boogeyman. In other words, he’s the one that you would send to kill Baba Yaga.

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Believe the old Russian guy.

In Russian Mythology, Baba Yaga is a witch or a magical being that takes the form of an old woman. As with most figures in Russian Fairy Tales, her role can vary wildly, going from snatching children and eating people who fail her tests to being a kindly, maternal figure who feeds lost children and helps them find their way home. Universally, though, she’s extremely powerful and immortal. In fact, there’s typically only one figure in Russian Mythology that is capable of destroying her: Koschei the Deathless. Sometimes he’s her husband, sometimes her brother, sometimes just her male counterpart, but she often is stated to know that he’s the only one who might be able to kill her. Hence, if John Wick is the guy who could kill Baba Yaga, he’d be Koschei the Deathless.

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See? Here he’s even meeting Baba Yaga as Ted Theodore Logan.

While Russian Mythology tends to vary a lot, Koschei’s three main qualities are that A) he’s deathless (duh), B) he can kill anyone and is shown to be magically blessed with all weapons, and C) his heart/soul is gone. The reason why he is immortal (deathless) is because his heart is gone, and typically the only way to get rid of him is to find it. His heart is usually depicted as being hidden in some complicated nested form, such as: The heart is in a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg is in a duck, the duck is in a hare, the hare is in a box, the box is in a log, the log is in a pond, the pond is in a forest, the forest is on an island. Essentially, it’s inside of a Matryoshka nesting doll. Without a heart, Koschei cannot die.

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Also, sometimes it’s a gemstone.

What do we know about John Wick? Well, 1) he’s Russian (established in this film and implied in the first one), 2) he’s specifically a Ruska Roma, or a Russian Gypsy, a people who are known more for their performing than for their combat ability, and who are, mostly through racism, associated with myths like Baba Yaga and Koschei, 3) his name is fake, but his birth name is likely also fake, with his revealed “real name” being the equivalent of John Johnson, 4)  before he had his wife, he was famous for killing people with a pencil and after he loses her, he similarly proves that he can kill anyone with anything, and 5) he can survive stuff that would kill even most action movie protagonists (particularly in this film). Note that John is only portrayed as being lethal and immortal when he doesn’t have his heart, which is to say his love, but when he is at peace (with his dogs to serve as his heart), he is beaten up by a group of two-bit punks and his house is blown up. If he doesn’t have a gaping hole to fill in his life, he’s not immortal.

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He even bears a token of a Russian bond.

What does this mean? Well, first of all, I’m not saying he’s literally Koschei the Deathless, so I’m not predicting that magic or old women in chicken-legged houses are going to be in the next one (sadly), but I’m saying his story is similar. Ultimately, the only way John Wick can end is the same way any story with Koschei always ends: With someone returning his heart to him and killing him. I firmly believe that it’s only when John actually finds something to love again that he’ll be allowed to die.

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Of course, I could be pulling this out of nowhere. It’s not like John Wick literally keeps one of his most treasured photos inside of a book of Russian Mythology depicting Koschei the Deathless in the New York Public Library, right? Oh, wait, that’s literally in the opening scene which I sadly can’t find a clip of online to place here. Your move, John Wick: Chapter 4.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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Rick and Mondays – S3 E4 “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender”

Morty forces Rick to go along on an adventure with the Vindicators, a superhero team whose name is definitely not derivative of anything.

SUMMARY

Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland) receive a call from the Vindicators, a superhero team that they had previously assisted. Rick refuses, but Morty uses his right to choose every tenth adventure from winning the bet in “Meeseeks and Destroy” to force Rick to do it. They join the Vindicators on their spaceship base and are informed that a villain named Worldender is out to take over the galaxy. Rick wastes no time in being hostile towards all of the Vindicators: literal starchild Supernova (Gillian Jacobs), cyborg reptile Crocubot (Maurice LaMarche), conductor of a ghost train Alan Rails (Lance Reddick), hive-minded ant colony Million Ants (Tom Kenny), and renegade starsoldier Vance Maximus (Christian Slater). The only one he gets along with is the janitor Noob-Noob (Roiland).

Morty believes this is the second time that the Vindicators have assembled and is dismayed to be told that it is actually the third. Rick and Morty weren’t invited to the last one due to Rick’s horrible personality. Rick is amused that the Vindicators hate him so much and points out that he routinely beats much more powerful enemies than the Vindicators face, but is then hurt when Morty says that the Vindicators are heroes, unlike Rick.

The next morning, Rick is found on the conference table passed out in his own feces. Morty and the Vindicators head towards Worldender’s lair with the unconscious Rick in tow. They manage to make it through multiple defenses, but then are stymied by turrets. They wake Rick up, who stops the turrets. Once they’re inside, they find all of Worldender’s minions dead and Worldender himself impaled and dying. It’s revealed that he was killed by none other than Rick, while Rick was blackout drunk. Drunk Rick has set up a series of death traps designed to torment the Vindicators. Vance is killed quickly trying to escape while Morty solves the first death-trap.

In the next room, Drunk Rick challenges the Vindicators to tell where they would never be found. Crocubot is killed after he reveals that the Vindicators killed an entire planet during Vindicators 2 due to not being able to track down a shapeshifter named Doom-nomitron, who Rick could easily have located. It turns out that Rick was talking about Israel, which Rick defends as just being “complicated,” but not “anti-Semitic.” After that, Drunk Rick tells them to make a series of three-pointers, which they do easily, however, Alan Rails ends up accusing Million Ants of sleeping with Supernova while she was married to Alan. Rick and Morty fight over Rick’s behavior, until they witness Million Ants and Supernova kill Alan violently.

The last room contains a puzzle where Drunk Rick tells the Vindicators to show the one thing he values. Morty reasons this is nothing, but Rick says the answer might be Morty. Morty gets taken on a ride by the deathtrap where Rick appears to be getting emotional, only to reveal that the actual answer was Noob-Noob. The trap still accepts the answer, though, and the room starts ascending to the surface. Along the way, Supernova starts trying to kill Rick and Morty. Million Ants tells her not to, but she kills him. Rick and Morty are nearly dead when they hit the surface, which has been turned into a party organized by Drunk Rick. Supernova flees the crowd and Rick and Morty join the party.

END SUMMARY

This episode is a shot at the superhero film genre and it’s one of the funnier ones to date. There are a lot of levels of criticism in this episode, so let’s go through a few.

First, Rick points out that superheroes are fairly generic. In his first trap room, he tells the Vindicators to match several traits (Don’t play well with others, tragic origin, never give up, superpower is a burden, and using power responsibly) to each of their pictures. Morty quickly points out that all five of the traits apply to all of the Vindicators because they’re just variations on the same general themes. He even tells them that he’s more complex than they are.

Rick also tells the Vindicators that he believes he can knock out what they do in a year in a few hours, a reference to how superhero film arcs take an entire film or even multiple movies, whereas Rick and Morty generally gets through both an A and B plot in 22 minutes. This is a statement on the tighter storytelling that Rick and Morty uses compared to the more spectacle-based superhero films.

The show also uses their typical nihilist satire to deconstruct the idea that superheroes even exist by having them slowly display all of their worst traits when faced with something more complicated than a normal, punchable villain. Vance reveals that behind his charm and wit he’s actually a coward, Alan attacks Million Ants out of anger, Crocubot makes an illogical decision, and Supernova just goes straight villain. However, as Supernova says, the reality of the heroes is irrelevant, because it’s the belief in them that actually matters. In other words, heroes don’t actually have to be all they claim to be, they just have to appear that way. Rick, meanwhile, is always honest about being a shithead, which is somewhat more moral in its own way.

This is one of the best episodes which doesn’t have a B-Plot. The focus is unerringly on Rick and Morty, but it still works well. 

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

Look, this one’s pretty straightforward, so I’ll give you two mini-theories.

First, Rick chooses Israel because he’s sick of being confused with Rick Sanchez, the former CNN, now Fox News commentator who got into trouble for anti-Semitic comments. Rick apparently has complicated feelings regarding Israel, but I think he goes out of his way to draw attention to his support of Israel in an attempt to separate himself from the other Rick Sanchez.

Second, why do Rick’s neutrino bombs have such a high fail rate? Well, it’s because he’s building them out of neutrinos, which have a high rate of passing through regular matter undetected due to only interacting with gravity and the weak nuclear force.

Overall, I give this episode an

B+

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

PREVIOUS – 24: Pickle Rick

NEXT – 26: The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.