Since its inception in 2014, the John Wick franchise has earned more than $581 million worldwide. For fans of the show, the figure is hardly shocking knowing just how intense an experience each film delivers. But the film was always an underdog action movie, coming out to relatively little fanfare and which was expected to fly under the radar. That each instalment seems to generate more acclaim for Keanu Reeves and his titular character is testament to the writing, cinematography and the universe created by director Chad Stahelski.
When John Wick 3 – Parabellum came out this year, it enjoyed such box office success that it became the highest grossing home entertainment title for Lionsgate in five years. It recruited stars like Halley berry and Ruby Rose and delivered stunts that went above and beyond what audiences expected. And if the action prowess of these female Hollywood legends was anything to go by, audiences will be in for a greater treat come the latest John Wick spinoff, Ballerina.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the script comes from Shay Hatten, who sold it to Lionsgate in 2017. How old was Hatten at the time? Just 23. It’s an incredible achievement, but seemed to be one Hatten was always going to do after working on the story on nights and weekends while working as an assistant at Robert Downey Jr.’s Team Downey. Hatten’s other writing credits include Zack Snyder’s upcoming Netflix zombie movie, Army of the Dead and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.
In an earlier interview with GQ, Hatten said he was initially inspired by the second John Wick instalment, writing the script as “an even more heightened, crazy story” but one that ultimately wasn’t in “the same universe.” As a result, Ballerina follows a young female assassin avenging her murdered family.
The spinoff will be produced by John Wick filmmaker Chad Stahelski, alongside Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee. Reeves will executive produce, with James Myers overseeing for Lionsgate. The Ballerina character was previously introduced in the third John Wick, with the credits of Parabellum listing Unity Phelan as “Ballerina”. And while we’re unsure if Reeves will star in the flick, if he does you can assume it will only be as a cameo.
The news of a female-led John Wick spin-off comes at a time where all-female reboots are coming thick and fast. And while it’s great to see the talents of notable female actors on screen, these films do little to pave a road towards greater equality and diversity in Hollywood. Yes, they feature more women, but these reboots don’t give women a stronger voice, they simply place them in a masculine role and seem to believe it reflects feminism, ignoring the need for women in positions of writing, directing and producing. As The Independent states very succinctly, “At their best, these films and shows offer a kind of revisionist thinking. At their worst, they demonstrate the film and television industry’s cynical profiteering from contemporary feminist ideals.”
Ballerina looks set to challenge this. It’s not a reboot, but a film that seeks to portray a strong female lead, one that is multi-dimensional and written with care.