John Wick (Keanu Reeves) was reluctantly pulled back into the life of a professional assassin in 2014’s self-titled movie. After exacting a measure of revenge for the death of his dog and the theft of his car he seemed to if not ride off into the sunset at least be once more done with the life. That’s not to be, though, as he’s once more called on to utilize his particular set of skills in John Wick Chapter 2, out this week.
The story picks up just a week after the events of the first movie. Wick is asked to help a former associate who’s trying to make a power move in the underworld of assassins and, bound by a blood oath, he once more suits up and arms himself to carve a bloody path through the endless supply of henchmen and lower level mobsters who dare to cross his path. All that while making sure everyone knows he doesn’t want to do this, it’s just what he needs to do.
The first poster is just the marketing team having fun with fans. All it shows is Wick being fit for a suit, a pair of hands holding a tape measure against his arm while in his other hand he’s holding a gun. “Bulletproof” is the only copy on the poster aside from the release date.
The second shows the overwhelming odds Wick is up against. He’s in the middle of the image and coming at him from all angles are hands with guns pointed directly at him, though he looks unconcerned about it all, which conveys the character’s cool, unshakeable nature.
Another poster came along that shows Wick in the thick of the action, his face bloodied but still intent as he grips a pistol. There’s not much else here, but it shows that the story will be just as violently intense as the first.
One more poster took a slightly more artistic turn. We see a small figure of Wick, smoke rising from him and his gun, standing on top of massive text reading “Relit,” a reference to the character’s fuse being set off once more. The bright red background really sets this out from the pack and provides a big, bold effort that is meant to get people talking. Another one shows a side-shot of Wick with a fuse running up his tie, as if it’s about to go off. One more has Wick taking aim at his own name.
A final group of posters took mostly another artistic approach. One looks like a comic book cover, with Wick’s face obscured by shadows as he leans over his gun. Another featured what looked like a pencil drawing of Wick, his dog, his car and some scenes in the background that hint at the movie’s international locations. Finally, there’s one that just has him taking aim at the audience with his pistol, the barrel making the “o” of “Two.” All three feature the “Reloaded” copy. I have to wonder how that last one made it past the MPAA since it has a long-standing rule about directly threatening the audience.
The first trailer, which was teased just before its New York Comic-Con debut, starts off showing Wick getting fitted for a suit and outfitted with weaponry, setting a winking tone. From there on out Wick attends a party where he has business and plenty of conflicts. The rest of the trailer is just a collection of action sequences with Wick taking down various bad guys in violent fashion.
It’s not clear what the driving conflict here is. We see someone being escorted around by a cadre of armed tough guys but what exactly the beef is between her and Vick isn’t explained. But the inclusion of a scene between Reeves and Laurence Fishburne at the end is a nice touch.
The official trailer starts off with Wick trying to put the violent chapter of his life back in storage one more time, until someone firebombs his house. Someone has taken out a contract on his life, apparently in retaliation for something Wick has done. That’s about it for the story, though, as most all of the run-time is devoted to one fight sequence after another, each one more huge and all-encompassing than the last.
There’s humor, there’s gunplay, there’s Reeves deadpanning his way through one thing after another. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a sequel trailer, promising fans more of what they liked about the first movie, only more of it.
Online and Social
The official website opens on an image of a bloodied and weary-looking Wick, the same photo that’s used on one of the posters, before it gives way to full-screen video of clips from the trailers. The site appears to be built on Tumblr so there’s a “follow” prompt in the upper right. Toward the bottom of the page are links to enter a sweepstakes or to find out about the John Wick VR experience that was announced late in 2015 and which you can pre-order now.
Below that there’s a box that rotates between promotion of one of the trailers and a link to the new issue of Continental Quarterly, purporting to be the official magazine of the assassin’s hotel that’s featured in the movies. There are stories in there that profile various aspects of Wick himself as well as some of the other characters we’ll meet in this installment. That’s a fun conceit and I get what they’re going for but it doesn’t quite commit to actually looking like a magazine so gets points off for not going all-in on a site that doesn’t just look like a movie promotion.
Moving to the content menu in the upper left, the first section there is “Trailers & Videos,” which is where you can watch both trailers, some TV spots, a few clips and a featurette. After that there’s a “Synopsis” that shares the barest of ideas about what motivates Wick back into action.
“Cast” just has images of the main players along with, in some cases, a GIF or image that can be shared to social channels. Then “Gallery and Posters” has a bunch of stills as well as some of the posters. Finally, “Social” has GIFs and images that have been posted to the Tumblr blog that can be shared on various platforms.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one began airing about a month ago and played like shorter versions of the trailer. Much of the setup is skipped in favor of, smartly, getting to the shootouts and violence as quickly as possible.
Two Super Bowl spots were also aired, both of which emphasized the fast-paced visuals and action Wick finds himself in the middle of, with very little attention paid to the story or anything else. It’s all about the attitude and the gunplay.
Right around the time of the second trailer, Dynamite announced it would publish a comic based on the movie series that would tell further tales of Wick.
It’s safe to assume plenty of online and outdoor advertising was done as well.
Media and Publicity
While anticipation was certainly high already, the first real talkable moment came Lionsgate debuted the first footage from the movie and had Reeves appear on stage during the studio’s CinemaCon presentation. The movie later got some love at New York Comic-Con, where the first trailer was debuted while the cast and crew talked about making the sequel to the unexpected hit and offered more information on the story, setting and more.
Further publicity about the movie included a still of Reeves and Fishburne together along with the expected nod to this being a reunion of the two Matrix costars. Reeves kept talking to the press about how much he enjoys this role and would be happy to revisit it for a third movie, conveying the message that this is as much fun for him to make as it is for the audience to watch.
The thing that made the first movie such a hit was that it was fun. It was ridiculous and remarkably low-concept but a fully-committed performance by Reeves in particular helped sell it to a crowd that wanted a mindless escape of a movie. So the campaign here has been wise to hit many of those same notes, presenting this as a continuation of the same, almost a remake more than a sequel. Lionsgate just wants people to come out and so are presenting the least challenging message to the public, a strategy I can’t really argue with.
That theme of “Wick is back” is the central tenet of the campaign. Everything hits that note over and over again, from the trailers to the 57 posters that were released. That seems like a winning strategy to me, with the value proposition being that this is once again a mindless escape from the world around them.