I demand a new ‘John Wick’ movie every year until I die.

Images courtesy Lionsgate.

In a November 2015 essay a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney’s first Star Wars-branded movie-product, released, an essay in Wired popularized the idea that Disney intended to make a new Star Wars movie every year until you die.

Obviously, that’s not what happened. After five solid years of sexist and racist backlash, self-inflicted director controversies and sharply diminishing box office returns, I think it’s fair to say no one really wants a new Star Wars movie every year until they die, and since the company was already transitioning to a streaming-first business model while all of this was going on, I think it’s fair to say they don’t really want to make them anymore either.

That’s fine. Disney spent $4 billion on Lucasfilm, and if they think streaming is the best way to recoup that investment, I can live with that. But if we’re still in a film environment where $300 million bare-minimum blockbusters can be a regular thing, I do have a request. A demand, actually.

I demand a new John Wick movie every year until I die.

I don’t think this is an unreasonable request. In fact, I think this is best for everyone involved.

John Wick movies are simple, mid-budget action movies built around real stunts performed by their stars. They were pioneered with Keanu Reeves in the title role, who has been doing his own stunts his entire career and is a disciplined mixed-martial artist who still adds new skills for more installments, meaning he was easy to build a fighting style around, but other actors have successfully stepped in to star in similarly designed movies.

With reasonable budgets and grounding in a real world, John Wick movies have no sci-fi action, just action. Their settings are not indistinct fantasies drawn onto a green void by an industry so work-intensive it’s in a state of permanent collapse, but real rooms built to house their fights or the back alleys of real cities. Wick’s bulletproof armor is not a colorful supersuit that will look ridiculous when the character is inevitably rebooted in a few years, but an understated, well-fitting black dinner jacket.

Various filmmakers have infused this framework with gorgeous cinematography, lighting, set and costume design, fantastic music and yes, action. So much action. Silly, fun action that will make you laugh. Crazy, completely bananas action that will make your jaw drop. Brutal, exhausting action performed by humans made of flowing blood and breakable bone.

Their special effects will never date because they are optical illusions and camera trickery, not graphics. Their human characters will never go out of fashion. Their stark, colorful neo-noir compositions will always be striking. Their stories, which frequently lean on mythology for depth and broad appeal, will remain elemental and relevant because they play on core building blocks of our culture.

Filmmakers will never run out of John Wick stories. In fact, the story world is purpose-built to explode outward. The first film is set in a vibrant, lived-in underground world of assassins with dozens of characters who all know each other. Installments so far have grafted this business into more cities and explored new power dynamics, adding new restrictions on Wick in the same moments that they free the story world with new possibilities. It’s possible to imagine a future where “Wickies” will reject new installments due to esoteric contradictions from some mostly forgotten spinoff, but the series is still only 9 years old, so that day is far from us.  

Racists, sexists and homophobes will never claim that they own John Wick, at least not the way they claim to own Star Wars. While this type of muscle movie is historically white and masculine – just like every other genre – the first film is rooted in the racial slurry and old hatreds of New York City immigration, subtext that only expands as the series travels to Europe and Africa in the next chapters. Women and minority characters are already prominent in the first film, and Chapter 3 sees an infusion of Asian characters and a critical nonbinary character. The entire series oozes with bisexual energy.

Reeves is 58, and while he looks like he could make action films of this extremity well into old age, he may want to retire at some point. This this will not prevent Lionsgate from making a new John Wick movie every year until I die, as there’ve already been several John Wick movies without Keanu Reeves. They made John Wick movies with Charlize Theron and Bob Odenkirk, and a John Wick movie with Ana de Armas and a John Wick TV series with Colin Woodell and Mel Gibson are already in post-production.

As the legend of these simple films spreads, John Wick movies have only seen box office returns grow, with installment grosses climbing from $43 million to $92 million to $171 million domestic and Chapter 4 looking at a franchise-record opening this weekend. These are proven, repeatable successes for a fanbase that is widening and only expects the simple pleasures of watching talented filmmakers do their thing.

I’m several months behind on publishing reviews, but to summarize the extremes of several recent projects, a film’s budget has become an absolutely meaningless number. Cocaine Bear, a movie about people wandering in a park with a CGI bear that snorted almost the entire budget, was made for $30 million, while The Green Knight, a medieval fantasy epic with suits of armor, several name actors and a tree monster, was made for just $15 million. Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once, which was a John Wick movie with Michelle Yeoh, cost only $25 million to make. Real microbudget horror movies that pour on the gore like Terrifier 2 and Skinamarink, internet sensations that cost just $250,000 and $15,000 respectively, are coming back to screens to those familiar, obscene return-on-investment numbers.

Disney and competitors are regularly sinking $200 million or $300 million into photorealistic cartoons with merchandising tie-ins that are more expensive to make than real movies, look worse and are quickly forgotten, and if major studios think that’s a way to make money, whatever. But the promise, the threat, of a new, $300 million or more Star Wars movie every year until I die was clearly within-budget. Smaller movies with better, more reliable returns-on-investment that don’t require armies of underpaid animators and don’t deliberately court hate speech for engagement should be within-budget, too.

I don’t want a new Star Wars movie every year until I die, but I do want a new John Wick movie every year until I die.

Give me a new John Wick movie every year until I die.

This is my demand.

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