The John Wick Series Doesn’t Work Without Keanu Reeves, but it’s Going to Try Anyway

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This article contains spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 4The John Wick series is one of the most successful and highly-regarded action franchises of the 21st century. Although the first film didn’t perform all that well, as it pulled in just $86 million worldwide, the praise it received from both critics and audiences was strong enough to warrant continuing with a sequel. John Wick: Chapter 2 then doubled what the first film had grossed while maintaining the same incredible quality of story, action, and filmmaking technique. Since then, the franchise has continued to grow, as both Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 continued the franchise’s upward trajectory, with the latter bringing in just over $440 million worldwide.


At the center of all of this is Keanu Reeves, for whom the character of John Wick has become another defining and iconic character in his career. In collaboration with the incredible director Chad Stahelski, who helmed all four films, Reeves successfully brought to life the latest in a long line of outstanding action movie characters, preceded by the likes of Jason Bourne, John McClane, and James Bond.

With all of this success, it’s no wonder why Lionsgate and the creative team behind John Wick are so interested in continuing to expand the franchise. However, with the end of John Wick: Chapter 4, they painted themselves into a corner, and it may hinder the ability to justifiably produce new John Wick films. Here’s how:


John Wick 4 Complicates the Series’ Future

Getting right into it, the biggest issue with continuing the John Wick series is that Chapter 4 concludes with the death of the franchise’s titular character. After nearly three hours of the relentlessly brutal action the series has become known for – in addition to the equally-incredible action of the three preceding films – Chapter 4 comes to a conclusion, with Wick finally getting the closure and revenge he has long sought for.

By killing the Marquis Vincent Bisset de Gramont, played by Bill Skarsgård, he has finally escaped the thumb of the High Council, earned his freedom and settled his debts. However, the wounds he received during his final confrontation are fatal, as he dies shortly after, thinking of the joy of his life and marriage.

JohnWickChapter4
John Wick: Chapter 4

Release Date
March 24, 2023

Studio
87Eleven Entertainment, Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment

This was about as perfect an ending to the character of John Wick as you can get. His arc finally came to a conclusion, and he was finally allowed the peace he had long fought for. The film even goes out of its way to showcase how undeniable Wick’s death is, as Winston (Ian McShane) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) are seen visiting his grave. Supposedly, an alternate ending was filmed that would’ve shown Wick standing over his own grave, but that idea was left on the cutting room floor in favor of a more definitive ending for the film.

However, despite the lead character’s death, there has still been talk of John Wick: Chapter 5. A fifth film had initially been planned to shoot back-to-back with Chapter 4, but that idea was abandoned before production started. Still, both Stahelski and Reeves had openly discussed the idea of coming back for another film. After the release and great success of the last film, Lionsgate was quick to officially announce the development of a fifth film, and just a few months ago, it was confirmed that the film is actively being written.

We aren’t entirely sure how that film could happen without undoing a lot of the good Chapter 4 did. Resurrecting the character would feel strange within the confines of the universe that has been built, though the only other option would be a prequel, which wouldn’t really be Chapter 5.

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Related: John Wick Chapter 5: What We Want From a Final Installment

The Continental Show Failed to Connect

Looking beyond the development of John Wick: Chapter 5, the Wick franchise has actively been laying the groundwork for new stories without Keanu Reeves. The first of which was The Continental – subtitled From the World of John Wick – which was a three-part miniseries that was released exclusively on Peacock in 2023. The show is a prequel to the John Wick films, and it centers around the character of Winston, played by Ian McShane in the films. Set in the 1970s, the story of the series examines how a young Winston, portrayed by Colin Woodell, came to run the Continental hotel in New York City.

The concept for The Continental was solid, as the existence of the Continental hotels serving as a crucial aspect of the organized criminal underworld in the John Wick films was one of the most compelling aspects of the series’ world-building. However, when The Continental aired last year, it failed to generate remotely the same level of attention as the John Wick films. It came and went with little fanfare. Shortly after the show was released, NBC and Peacock were touting the series as one of the most popular exclusives the streamer had ever released.

The Continental
The Continental

Release Date
September 22, 2023

Creator
Greg Coolidge, Shawn Simmons, Kirk Ward

Seasons
1

However, Peacock has never been a prime destination for original content, as its “biggest” shows, alongside The Continental, include Bel-Air, Twisted Metal, Poker Face and Based on a True Story, none of which have really captured the widespread attention of general audiences.

The reception to The Continental was also far from what it had been for the John Wick movies. While all four of the Wick films received solid, progressively better Certified Fresh scores on Rotten Tomatoes – 86%, 89%, 89%, and 94% – The Continental landed at just 63%. Generally, people found the story to be underwhelming, as it felt more like one of the myriad of John Wick rip-offs that are out there, rather than a genuine extension of that Wick series.

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Related: John Wick 4 Director Confirms a Very Different Alternate Ending Exists

The Ballerina with Ana de Armas is Next

Although The Continental may not have been the next big success in the John Wick franchise, that doesn’t mean that Lionsgate is giving up on trying to expand the series beyond its central character. Later this year, the first John Wick spin-off film will hit theaters. This film, titled Ballerina, moves the focus away from Wick and onto a new character played by Ana de Armas. The story will expand upon the Ruska Roma crime family seen in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

This is the organization that trained Wick and made him the relentless character he is, and Armas’ new character will be another expert assassin taken in by the organization. The film will be set between Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, and as such, both Reeves and Ian McShane will reprise their roles in the film to some degree.

Ballerina is a new direction for John Wick in more ways than one. It’s also the first film in the series not to be directed by Chad Stahelski. Instead, Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard, 2012’s Total Recall) directed the film, with Stahelski stepping back into a producing role. The script is also co-written by Emerald Fennell, who has recently made a name for herself by writing and directing the films Promising Young Woman and Saltburn.

The future of the John Wick franchise is balanced on the success of Ballerina. If the film fails, then it is a clear sign that audiences are only interested in the films with Reeves at the center. However, if the film manages to stand on its own two feet and bring in a sizable audience, then Lionsgate will have successfully transitioned the Wick series into its next major action franchise.

This new Ballerina film isn’t the only John Wick spin-off in development, though. Following the success of Chapter 4, there has been a lot of discussion about the numerous spin-offs that could come out of the film. Specifically, stories centered around Donnie Yen’s Caine, Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King, Shamier Anderson’s Mr. Nobody and more have been discussed by Stahelski, producer Erica Lee and other creatives behind the scenes. Ballerina is the first of these films to enter production, and its success or failure is likely to be the determining factor regarding whether many of these films actually get made.

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