Lionsgate must have called in a marker. During a recent earnings call, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group president Joe Drake talked about the John Wick franchise, and in addition to discussing the future spinoffs and prequels (ugh) in various stages of development, he revealed something big:
“What is official is that, as you know, Ballerina is the first spinoff that comes out next year. We’re in development on three others, including five and including the television series, The Continental, which will be airing soon… We’re building out the world and when that 5 movie comes, it will be organic — will be organically grown out of how we’re starting to tell those stories. But you can rely on a regular cadence of John Wick.”
We already knew about Ballerina and The Continental and Lionsgate wanting to expand the John Wick universe, but this is the first mention of a fifth John Wick being developed. Chad Stahelski talked about it and indicated that he and star Keanu Reeves might be open to it if the audience wanted more, and given John Wick: Chapter 4’s $400 million+ haul – the largest of the series – it would seem they do.
To discuss this properly, I’m going to have to spoil John Wick: Chapter 4, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t read any further.
At the end of Chapter 4, John Wick dies (or so it appears), having sacrificed himself to save Winston and his friend Caine’s daughter from the wrath of The High Table, as well as to make sure he killed The Marquis. Wick gives his life for others rather than holding onto it for himself, realizing that what Winston suggested in Chapter 3 was right: it’s better to die a free man who loved his wife than live as a slave to monsters who merely remembers her. It’s a lovely end to a tragic story, with Wick finally being able to spend eternity with Helen (and, one assumes, the dog) as Winston and The Bowery King look upon his grave, which reads exactly what he’d said he wanted it to: “Loving Husband.”
But there’s money to be made, so screw that! I guess this means Wick is alive, and his death was faked. A fifth film doesn’t make sense otherwise; if you’re going to do a John Wick movie without John Wick, just stick to the spinoffs that don’t have his name in the title. The only other option would be a prequel, which is not only a terrible idea but wouldn’t make sense if this is going to be Chapter 5. So I guess they’ll have to find a compelling reason for him to abandon the peace he’s found, if in life instead of death.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. I liked the way Chapter 4 ended Wick’s journey, and it fit with everything that came before and brought the character the only peace he’d likely ever find. I’m wary of killing off main characters, and I think it happens too often as a crutch for writers and filmmakers who want to manufacture gravitas. But in this case, it worked. However, I’m not going to pretend the promise of more John Wick action doesn’t excite me, and as soon as I see Keanu Reeves wiping out a room full of bad guys, I’m sure my hesitation will disappear, and I’ll let myself have fun.
What interest me are Drake’s comments about the fifth movie coming about “organically” after the spinoffs and prequels. I’m not a big fan of making this a universe, especially with prequels like The Continental. The mystery surrounding The High Table and their world is one of the cool things about these movies, and I like finding out bits and pieces of the lore but never the whole picture. The Continental sounds like it’s going to ruin that by telling us how it came to be. We know everything we need to know about The Continental, and I don’t relish seeing Winston and Charon played by actors other than Ian McShane and Lance Reddick. Something like Ballerina is a little better, but it’s still John Wick without John Wick.
But if they’re all leading to John Wick: Chapter 5, perhaps they’re more important than they seem rather than just offshoots. For example, we’ve known for a while that Keanu Reeves and Ian McShane would be in Ballerina, and after seeing John Wick: Chapter 4, I assumed that meant it took place sometime in the past. But what if they use Ballerina and maybe some other spinoffs to reveal that Wick is still alive? Perhaps Ana de Armas’ character discovers this during her revenge mission. That would make these feel more important than just feeble attempts to keep the brand alive past the hero’s death. The new movies could be puzzle pieces building towards John Wick’s return to smash The High Table for good, and that would be very cool.
This makes sense for Ballerina, in particular. According to Drake, Ana de Armas will be playing one of the ballerinas from The Director’s troupe; The Director, played by the legendary Angelica Huston, was the leader of John Wick’s Ruska Roma crime ring, meaning de Armas will already have a connection to Wick. And Huston is reprising the role in Ballerina. Perhaps the Ruska Roma, who readmitted Wick in Chapter 4 after he killed Scott Adkins in a fat suit, is hiding Wick after his faked death, and Ballerina is how we’ll discover that. This leads to more questions, like whether Winston and The Bowery King know he’s still alive or what will draw him into action again. Maybe someone discovers his continuing association with the mortal coil and comes after the Ruska Roma in retaliation, causing him to load his guns again to stop people from dying because of him (which would fit with some of the themes in Chapter 4).
One thing’s for sure: nobody better go after his dog. I doubt even The High Table would be that brave.