Sequels may currently dominate Hollywood, but the fact of the matter is that many of them have a nasty habit of falling flat for audiences. All too often, we see franchises that phone in their second, third, and even fourth installments because they are viewed as little more than cash grabs that don't necessarily deserve the same amount of tender love or care that the original film received.
That's where John Wick: Chapter 2 comes in. The latest installment in the John Wick saga is a beautiful continuation of the story we first got a good look at in 2014, and Keanu Reeves (along with director Chad Stahelski) has delivered something that completely captures the brutally violent spirit of the original. Chapter 2 isn't just a good movie; it possesses some major lessons that it should impart on future sequels for other franchise. There are plenty of lessons to get to, so let's get started with the wise way in which Chapter 2 uses Ruby Rose's new character.
Don't Force A Love Interest
One of the most annoyingly familiar tropes that we see pop up in contemporary sequels is the forced inclusion of a love interest to develop the central hero's arc. While John Wick's dynamic with Ruby Rose's Ares certainly feels flirtatious at times, the film never lets John slow down enough to find a new romance. The film remembers that John is still very much in mourning over the recent passing of Helen (Bridget Moynahan) and the film even goes out of its way to show him wearing his wedding band on several occasions. We're not saying that John Wick won't find a love interest after Chapter 2, but the series admirably avoided that familiar pitfall this time around.
Embrace And Expand The World
By now it has become pretty clear that fans love the immersive feel of the John Wick universe, and the sequel reasonably expands on those ideas in a way that genuinely makes sense. This film isn't like Keanu Reeves' work on The Matrix sequels, which felt like a letdown when major ideas such as Zion didn't live up to the original's description of them. John Wick 2 ultimately maintains the spirit of the first movie while also showing us a far deeper and more nuanced look at this criminal underworld. This expansion works because it feels like the "new" story elements that John Wick interacts with during Chapter 2 were always there waiting for him to return; we just didn't see them in 2014.
Organically Move The Story Forward
There's an elegant overlap between the end of the first movie and the beginning of John Wick: Chapter 2 that helps sell the idea that this is a natural continuation of John's story. The events of the sequel feel directly caused by John coming out of retirement, and the arrival of Santino D'Antonio reads like a natural expansion on ideas (namely the "impossible task") that are brought up during the first John Wick. Chapter 2 doesn't completely pull these ideas out of thin air, and it sensibly finds the right plot threads from the original to marry with the plot threads of the sequel. The result is two chapters to the John Wick story that feel logically and organically connected.
Don't Rehash The Plot Of The Original
The first John Wick was an entirely unexpected hit, and this sequel deserves special credit for not just sticking to what worked the first time out. Although the story and style of John Wick: Chapter 2 is firmly rooted in the DNA of the original, it is also very much a different film compared to what we've seen before. The sequel could've easily fallen into The Hangover franchises "it happened again" trap, but it wisely avoids such traps by showing a willingness to send John on a new type of mission. Luckily for all of us, his dog stays alive this time, and his rationale for taking on this new assignment is completely different than the first movie.
Take Full Advantage of a New Location
It's not uncommon for a sequel to take a character to a new locale for a sequel, but the change of scenery is often nothing more than a cosmetic change for the same type of story -- look no further than the Taken franchise for a pretty bad example of that idea. John Wick: Chapter 2 understands those ideas and makes its depiction of Rome an entirely different beast compared to New York. The particular customs of this version of The Continental receive a thorough examination, the morality of the Italian criminals is brutally juxtaposed to that of the Americans, and the iconic geography of the city is used to comedic effect -- particularly when it comes to John and Cassian tumbling down stairs.
End On A Cliffhanger That Doesn't Need To Be Resolved
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, John Wick: Chapter 2 closes on a cliffhanger that doesn't necessarily require any form of resolution. We live in an age where franchises refuse to tie up their stories neatly, and every film serves as a setup for the next movie. By contrast, watching John run off into the night with his unnamed dog -- no longer affiliated with the assassin world, but very much hunted by them -- feels like an enthralling way to end his arc. It's not something like the end of The Force Awakens, which demands answers. It keeps things open and up for interpretation, so If we never see John again, we will all theorize where he went after his excommunication.