JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 Director On The Pressure Of Sequels, Loss Of Originality, And Third Film Possibility
Things didn’t seem to be looking good for John Wick at first. This is a film that didn’t get a trailer drop until around a month or so before its release. It was almost as if the studio behind it was trying to bury it for fear of embarrassing themselves. But when the film hit theaters, enough folks went to go see it to kickstart the positive word of mouth. Both critics and moviegoers at the film up, and the film managed to take in $86 million worldwide, a solid recoup of its $20 million investment.
Apart from the amazing role that managed to utilize actor Keanu Reeves’ skill set perfectly, one of the big stories was how great a job the directing duo did to bring the action to life. In fact, the pair were so good, that the Russo Brothers went so far as to bring them into Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War as second unit directors, in hopes of getting similar, hard-hitting action (which they succeeded at).
Now the stakes are higher. Unlike the first John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2 has a lot to live up to, as fans have the expectations that the sequel needs to be bigger and better.
Speaking with Collider, director Chad Stahelski (who will be working solo this time around) discussed the pressures of the sequel and the loss of originality by telling a story from way back when he worked on the Matrix sequels with the Wachowskis.
“Keanu [Reeves] and I we met on the first Matrix which was a pretty special experience even by the best of Hollywood standards. The Wachowskis [Lana and Lily] were right in between us age wise so we were all about in the three year mark of age. It was a huge learning experience in term of being exposed to that level of creativity and genius. When we got back, we all knew that that was going to be something special. It wasn’t until a year later when I really realized everyone thought it was a big deal. We couldn’t have been happier. Like my contract runs for three years – 6 months of prep, for two years of filming two and three back-to-back and having training.
“Point being is, I asked the same thing when I was with the Wachowskis. We’re so excited we go back to San Francisco to prep and set the stages and one night we’re all sitting around having and a drink and we’re all saying, “This is gonna be great! This is gonna be great!” both of them sour. I was like, “Why what’s up isn’t this the best thing ever?” They were like, “Well it’s kind of the curse of the sequel.” The reason people love you so much sometimes is because you’re original. John Wick was an original twist on a classic tale, with a fancier look and a different way of telling the story. More like a Greek myth rather than your typical action movie. So you give away your whole hand with that, you give away originality. So how do you compete with yourself? And it’s gonna be hard. Some of the things I’ve done in scenes and shit has been awesome. Having 20 years as a stunt man nothing’s more terrifying than comparing yourself against yourself.”
Stahelski then talked about the importance of dropping the comparisons, as that can usually only hurt you and the project.
“Comparing yourself to Marvel, compare yourself to DC, compare yourself to anything to be the expectation sometimes it’s almost an analysis for affinity. We decided to stop competing with the first one. Once we stopped worrying about ourselves it was fun. I mean is it as good as the first one? I don’t know. Did we go better in some ways? Yes. Did we experiment with the characters more? Yes. Everything there is better. Is the enjoyment better? I think the enjoyment is there, but it’s different. All the other director friends I have don’t like doing sequels or don’t like doing other people’s sequels, which is even worse I think. But then there’s other examples. I think the best example is Ridley Scott. He did the first Alien. James Cameron created Aliens. Cameron, I think think is a genius for that. Going, ‘I’m not making the same Aliens again, I’m just gonna make it.’ If I could be so bold as to take that similarity then so be it.”
With all this in mind, Stahelski thought it was important that this sequel have its own identity apart from the first one, which plays into why they gave it the interesting title, John Wick: Chapter 2 as opposed to simply, John Wick 2.
“It was a completely conscious decision. That’s why we named it Chapter 2. It was a like a chapter in a book. Where, if you pick up a book, you don’t have to read the beginning, you can just jump into a chapter.”
While I’m not sure that analogy holds up very well to me (In a novel, I think it’s important to read all the chapters in order), I definitely get where he’s coming from. The point is that it’s important for a sequel to live independent from its predecessor, or risk being compared to it constantly. Nowadays, no one necessarily compares Alien and Aliens. Yes, one was a continuation of the other, but at the end of the day, both are so different that it’s nearly impossible to compare.
Stahelski then talked about why they decided to go for a sequel to John Wick rather than branch off into other original projects.
"When we finished the first John Wick it was successful by its own standards. The studio asked us to do another one, and we didn’t really know what to do. We hadn’t give it a thought. We thought this was like a one off. There were other offers for other jobs, but sometimes there’s agents and managers and everyone’s saying you gotta do this, go do an action, go do a serious drama. I sat with my wife and we just had a long talk…. To spend every day with those guys, it was a lot of fun and I just realized it was the best choice."
Finally, what is the possibility of a sequel to John Wick: Chapter 2?
"Yeah, the studio has asked us to put our heads together and see if we can come up with something. Winston’s [McShane] is a big part of the next one, so is Lance Reddick. We’ve got some ideas. Love Lance, Lance is great, fantastic actor super great guy and we have a good cast. I keep saying that, we have a really great cast [laughs]."
So, in short, they have some ideas on how to go forward, but it’s still up in the air as to whether or not they’ll go forward with it — and if they do, there’s no telling if it’ll be Stahelski’s next project.
But, one film at a time, right? Audiences should try and enjoy the upcoming film before looking to the next.
John Wick: Chapter 2 hits theaters on February 10, 2017.
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