mosquitodragon’s review published on Letterboxd:
A little late getting to this one given how much I love the series and also how much my wife does - this being one of the few films in my wheelhouse she's been actually bugging me to sit down and watch with her. But then again, I was late to the party on the whole John Wick thing altogether, so it's nice to stay on brand.
So the only odd thing about the experience of watching Parabellum is that it actually had a few elements I didn't care for, and there were moments where I was thinking this franchise had jumped the shark completely... and then in the final analysis I decided I loved the hell out of it anyway.
The whole section where Halle Berry comes into it and then on into the desert to meet the mystic Bedouin dude who somehow seems to pull all the strings in The Table? Although all of it is entertaining enough, it was really losing me here. There's just something about Halle Berry as an actor that doesn't work for me - watching her in this, she seemed to do everything required of her just fine and yet somehow her action sequences were a little less thrilling, like there was something a little too artificial about them. I don't know if it's her or the choreography or the dogs or what... it just felt like I wasn't in a John Wick film any more. And then that part with Saïd Taghmaoui in the desert... it was just getting a bit silly - which is a funny thing to criticise in John Wick but there's always a line you don't want crossed somewhere, isn't there?
So, the plot loses its simplistic effectiveness again, the aspect of the first film which worked so well in combination with the incredible action. But ultimately, it doesn't really matter because the action again is so wonderful. I also really liked the introduction of Mark Dacascos as Zero, who is a really fun antagonist. I thought that scene where they have to stop fighting in the Continental and Zero starts coming at Wick with the fanboy adulation like some guy on a message thread, and the way Keanu was playing off that with his almost embarrassed disdain for this guy - it's great. And of course, Dacascos can fight like a motherfucker too.
What really floated my boat here though was simply how beautiful this thing looks. I really found the production design and art design in general to be completely breathtaking - I really found myself blissing out to the sets as much as I was enjoying the fight action. Which led me to another realisation, actually...
Have you noticed how many studio movie releases for the multiplex masses now adopt this incredibly vivid colour palette? Marvel have been doing this for years, ever since their Phase 1 when Branagh dialled it up for Thor, but Whedon and Gunn and the Russo's and even Waititi have continued to lean into it. DC wanted to go for a more subdued, noirish look but part of their strategy to salvage that shitshow has been a complete about-face on that, and now they're all about bright colours too. Disney was always colourful but not the day-glo rainbows they serve up now - just look at Encanto and all their major releases since Frozen.
Is this some opiate-of-the-masses thing? Do bright neon colours make us go into an appreciative stupor and just zone out - leaving us walking out of the film thinking we've seen something amazing and leaving a sense echo like a chemical compulsion to come back and fork out our money for another shot? Because, I have to say, by the time we get to the final showdown in the glass room in the Continental in Parabellum, I could feel an almost physical sensation of sensory pleasure from all the loud colour overload.
I'm sure this is becoming a deliberate marketing strategy that is now bleeding into movie concepts and productions themselves. But at least, if it is done as well as it is in this movie, I'm still going to let myself enjoy it. Maybe I am just weirdly susceptible to colour - I mean, I've already made a list for films which follow this exact aesthetic. But there's something going on here, I can feel it.