With its outlandish and entertaining third entry John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the John Wick franchise has entered an elite group of action movies. You know the type of movie I'm referring to: Sequels with incredibly preposterous, grammatically adventurous, and objectively hilarious titles. As the Wick movies get progressively bigger -- adding more recognizable actors, more gravity-defying dogs, more meticulously crafted gun-fu fight scenes, more convoluted mythology about coins, and more minutes to the runtime -- it only makes sense for the titles to expand in word count. The old John Wick made gangsters fear for their lives; the new John Wick makes copy editors tremble.
The first film starring Keanu Reeves as the deadly assassin, released in 2014 with little pre-release expectation and hype, had a fairly standard, straightforward title: John Wick. Like the movie itself, the title was compact and purposeful, a perfect way to bring viewers into an underworld thriller about a man seeking vengeance for his dead dog. Who is this movie about? Duh, it's about John Wick. Who is John Wick? Well, watch the movie and find out.
Following the success of the first film, Reeves starred in the slightly wonkier sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2, which featured more scenes at The Continental, a secret hotel for hit men and women established in the first film, and an even higher body count. The choice to make the second film a "chapter" hinted at the loftier, slightly baroque ambitions of series writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski. The implication was that each John Wick movie was part of a larger story, like a leather-bound book Ian McShane's Continental manager Winston might keep in his office. It was a relatively unfussy, mildly presumptuous gesture toward the possibility of a larger universe.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is yet another expansion. My reaction to reading the title when it was first announced was to laugh -- really, really hard. The title has the same sense of goofy, florid gravitas that the series has increasingly leaned into. It sounds like the name of a nu-metal album you found in your older sibling's CD binder. (There's a Colombian extreme metal group and a French punk band that already use the word for their names.) As a franchise, John Wick has incredible "studies Latin once" energy, so Parabellum fits the series like a freshly pressed, blood-spattered white dress shirt.