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Screen Themes: Avengers Endgame vs John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

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Let’s all go to the movies! Entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out two of the biggest blockbusters to hit the big screen, the climactic Avengers: Endgame and the wildly violent John Wick (Chapter 3) — Parabellum.

Avengers: Endgame

Directed by Joe & Anthony Russo (2019)

After 11 years and 22 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to a heartfelt and well-earned conclusion, with some of your favourite characters shouting their final hurrah. Of course, this is far from the final movie in the Marvel universe, so the conclusion rings a little hollow, but this is Disney and there is money to be made.

After mega-baddie Thanos destroyed half the universe at the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War (although if he destroyed half of all living things, he hardly solved the resource shortage), the remaining heroes are left beaten and broken, trying to find their way in a world that no longer makes sense. How they handle this grief is a well-observed study of the variety of reactions that humans have to loss: Thor begins drinking heavily; Black Widow tries to keep things together, even as she falls apart emotionally; and Captain America leads a support group for people struggling with the aftermath of the "snap". Only Hulk seems to thrive, coming to terms with his monstrous persona and combining the strength of the Hulk with the brains of Bruce Banner.

Walking a fine line between homage to the past and scathing statement on the state of the world in 2019, Endgame may well be the most mature ‘comic book movie’ ever made. Characters have depth, decisions have consequences, and even the hardest-hearted viewer will find it difficult not to share in the grief for long-loved characters now lost. There isn’t a bad performance in the movie, and Marvel stalwarts Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr both deliver spectacular character studies of ageing heroes.

I must admit, I had my doubts whether the Russo brothers could sustain my attention for a running time just over three hours, but I barely noticed the duration, so compelling was the movie. Rather than make the film a 3-hour battle, the Russos make the wise decision to focus on the pain of loss before the inevitable triumph over adversity.

John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum 

Directed by Chad Stahelski (2019)

My relationship with the John Wick franchise is a complex one. I enjoyed the first movie, despite the cheap tactic of killing a dog to evoke sympathy for the protagonist, the expressionless Keanu Reeves. I found the sequel fun at the start but grindingly repetitive as it went on and actually fell asleep for the last 20 minutes or so. When I caught up the bit later on DVD, I hadn’t missed much, apart from the revelation that literally everyone in the John Wick universe is an assassin.

Based on this experience, I walked into Parabellum (Latin for "prepare for war") with measured expectations, but from the moment the endless pre-show finished until the credits ran, I was entranced. Keanu Reeves returns as the titular anti-hero and the earlier dog sacrifice is repaid with not one but three super-cute but deadly canine companions. Make no mistake, Parabellum is entirely ludicrous, but it’s also an enormous amount of fun.

Playing off a monosyllabic Keanu, the supporting cast of Parabellum are a treat, with the returning Ian McShane enjoying himself immensely as Continental Hotel manager Winston. He is ably assisted by the excellent Lance Reddick as the shotgun-wielding hotel concierge. A fantastic looking Halle Berry plays Sofia – an assassin with a tragic backstory – and Game of Thrones star Jerome Flynn almost steals the show with his ridiculously-accented arms dealer, Berrada.

With an ending that leaves the series wide open for Chapter 4, and a box office that finally knocked Endgame off the top of the charts, we can expect John Wick to return in increasingly violent and ludicrous chapters every couple of years. I, for one, could not be happier.

Avengers: Endgame — 9/10

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum — 8/10

Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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