Will “John Wick 3” Break the Movie Threequel Curse?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Lionsgate)

“John Wick 3” now has a shooting date and a confirmed director.

Chad Stahelski, who directed the past two movies (admittedly with the help of David Leitch for the first film) will be returning for this third installment, while filming will begin in March.

The big question worth asking, though, is whether or not this film will manage to break the curse that seems to float around the third movie in any franchise.

Getting a third movie right is incredibly hard; more difficult even than pulling off a sequel, and certainly harder than having a success in the first place.

John Wick 2
Source: Lionsgate

Sequels are hard because you have to top people’s expectations with a different plot that builds on the first movie but takes things in a new direction. Threequels (a horrid word that nonetheless does its job) are even more challenging, as expectations grow.

In pretty much every major trilogy, the third film is the weakest of the bunch.

The Godfather. Star Wars. The Dark Knight. Spider-Man. X-Men. In all cases where a sequel manages to improve on the original, the third film inevitably becomes the weakest of the three.

There are exceptions to this. Back to the Future is solid all the way through, and Indiana Jones is pretty much the perfect finish to any series (so it’s a shame about Crystal Skull).

Both of these trilogies, achieve success by following a fairly standard trilogy formula: the first film sets up the world, the second installment takes the plot in a very different direction, and the third movie revisits the original plot again.

Back to the Future Part 3
Source: Universal

Marty McFly has to get a broken time machine to a certain place in order to get Back to the Future.

Then he has to jump around in time trying to stop a Donald Trump parody from taking over the world (no, seriously, the director has stated that Biff is a stand-in for Trump).

Then, finally, Marty has to get a broken time machine to a certain place in order to get Back to the Future – except this time, with cowboys.

This happens a lot.

Indiana Jones has to track down an ancient Biblical artefact. Then he has to fight some racist Hindu caricatures. Then he has to track down an ancient Biblical artefact again, but this time he has James Bond to help him.

Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance has to blow up the Death Star. Then Luke trains with Miss Piggy in a swamp while his friends hide inside a giant snake. Then they have to blow up another Death Star, but with teddy bears.

Bruce Wayne fights the League of Shadows. Then he fights a clown. Then he fights the League of Shadows.

This cycle is common in many trilogies. It’s a way of keeping the plot familiar and building on past successes.

The Last Crusade
Source: Paramount

With any luck, “John Wick 3” will avoid falling into this classic trap. Hopefully, the movie will offer something original, rather than simply another story of gritty canine revenge.

It might be best not to hold out too much hope though. The third movie is always the worst.