Thoughts on storytelling, inspired by revisiting John Wick


Following up on a movie that affected me.

I reviewed this movie once before, on the Uncommon Geek (read here if you’re interested). In retrospect, as that was almost two years ago, I cringe at the way I used to write, but it is what it is and I do feel like I made my critical points about the movie.

Why I’m revisiting this movie in writing: I watched it again for the first time in over a year. The movie’s key emotional moment, where callous, senseless thugs kick John Wick at the lowest point in his life, when this guy is in the deepest depths of despair and his one innocent ray of light is violently snuffed out, I felt what he did. This you can tribute to the writing and direction, but also the performance of Keanu Reeves. I’m to the point where I don’t really care what his detractors have to say; the man can act. I cried with John when he read the card sent to him by his dead wife. You could put aside the rest of the movie and still have a powerful, human moment, in a movie many are quick to judge or categorize only as a mindless action film.

That moment was an epiphany. The idea of “why” we gravitate to film, to storytelling so much as human beings, it all coalesced in my head. Stories let us escape reality. They let us explore ideas and feelings. They can be pure fun or fantasy indulgence. I feel, however, what stories offer that is most important is the insight into other points of view. A way to exercise empathy, to see and feel what other people do. Good actors with a good script can make this come alive on screen and dramatically affect an audience. A talented development team can make this happen in a visceral, immersive way with video games. The best authors are able to use words alone to let us peer into other worlds, other people and new perspectives.

This epiphany was crucial to me because I have long held this nebulous idea that what we often refer to as “hobbies” or just what we do for recreation or fun (games, movies, books, music, etc.), which is somehow less important than “real” things like politics, religion, work, the news, etc., is in fact more important than those things. I contend that the latter items are every bit as unreal and self-indulgent as recreational media and entertainment. An argument can of course be made that most religions are based on stories and myths that some people decided to take¬†way too seriously. Digressing, all of the aforementioned, they are human constructs designed to serve a function in society or to attempt to answer questions about life. Media and storytelling serves us in a critical way because it not only offers an escape from all the “reality” shoved in our face, but gives us a vehicle to explore new ideas and ways of thinking. The so-called legitimate endeavors that high society thinks we should care about more, are stuck in a world of narrow-minded ideas, are closed off to outside perspectives, and don’t want you to question any part of it. The machine of reality is insidious and rallies many to its cause without them even being consciously aware of it.

I contend that we should not feel belittled or guilty for enjoying our media or letting ourselves be wrapped up in stories, whether they be lofty fantasy or a realistic take on people and the world. I contend that it is good, it is healthy, indeed it is necessary for us to break out of our comfort zones, our little shells and explore what is out there.



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