The Continental

The Continental
The Continental
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From 2014’s John Wick movie, the franchise left its viewer asking for more regarding the world behind. Continually, these subsequent sequels unmasked this hidden world of assassins with a well-designed power structure operating just offside. It was always a much larger universe than what we saw in John Wick. Perhaps no single place has ever alluded to having lots of stories within it as much as Continental Hotel has done since the cantina scene in Star Wars 1977.

Now that John Wick: Chapter 4 ended his story earlier this year, Lionsgate seeks to see if the John Wick franchise can be larger than its lead character. Through The Continental, subtitled From the World of John Wick, they want to decide whether series could become like Star Wars or Star Trek that follow different characters across timelines and through franchises or whether it will be another one of those franchises (like Indiana Jones) where you cannot move past the main character because they are too central.

Luckily though The Continental does at least indicate that there are stories other than those about John Wick himself within this series. All the same, It’s beginning to do some encores and maybe needs something fresh by now. That is a fair enough start but how many times can this happen again? Finally, although the three-part mini-series does not overstay its welcome and understands when to tell its story succinctly thus bringing to screen most things people liked about film series while trying to branch out itself poorly.

The Continental portrays Winston who was played by Ian McShane in the movies and Colin Woodell plays him here; in his youth he learnt from Cormac (Mel Gibson), his former mentor and someone whom Winston doesn’t particularly get along with till now. The entire time we were watching John Wick nobody really cared how Winston got employed until now when they have made an effort to explain it in traditional “rise-to-power” mobster style whenever a mere lackey, who is Winston, leads a group of other lackeys to take over the hotel. It describes Winson’s early days and hence shows how he will be in the John Wick film series.

Woodell does a great job matching McShane’s facial expressions and tone of voice; as such one can easily see him as a young version of this character giving him youthful swagger that we would associate with such a person as young Winston. That feeling you get when you have an amazing elder brother and then it takes you back so many years ago to witness it.

Moreover, John Wick fans will also enjoy seeing how Charon and Winston first met. Lance Reddick played Charon in the movies until his death occurring just before John Wick: Chapter 4 premiered last week but now Ayomide Adegun has replaced him and conceivably is one of the scene stealers for the entire series since besides being quite good at playing the character in his youth, scriptwriters have been able to flesh out his role more providing new insights into this person.

While there is a wide range of characters involved in the film, other cast members include Nhung Kate as Yen and Lou and Miles respectively played by Jessica Allaian and Hubert Point-Du Jour both of whom are members of Winston’s team as well as Mishel Prada who plays KD, a cop investigating the Continental. Each one does their job well. In fact, one of the most heightened villain roles in this franchise was played by Supergirl actress Katie McGrath as The Adjudicator. Really, they’re all so good at what they do that it’s hard not to dwell on the elephant in the room: Mel Gibson.

Mel Gibson is a complicated movie star. He used to be an iconic actor for starring in movies such as Mad Max and Lethal Weapon trilogy; he also directed Braveheart among others. There was even an episode of The Simpsons dedicated to how much everyone loves him. But his star persona really took a hit when audio recordings leaked where he made anti-Semitic comments aside from using racial slurs and threatening violence towards his ex-wife. These remarks have spoiled Gibson’s reputation. This begs questions why John Wick movie series which has been applauded for having Keanu Reeves, one of the most likeable people globally would now invite someone like Gibson who is arguably considered as among those who audiences hold grudges longer against.

However, it becomes difficult to separate art from artists because The Continental is not only asking viewers to come with this image because Cormac (Gibson’s character) bursts out in anger at every slight provocation or inconvenience despite being cool most times –not unlike his previous roles like Riggs or Max-. It’s all an act to show just how mad he can get, screaming and shouting while doing violent things that remind many about Gbison’s audio leaks. Angry violence is something creators are seeking for within their storylines that works for them since Gibson is a formidable villain but the real life issues always threaten to take away any fun. Sometimes it feels difficult to immerse oneself in the story and see where the character ends and the actor begins.

John Wick franchise is one of the most unique film franchises today. It redefined action set pieces and how they should be filmed for 21st Century blockbusters, thus making other films ape its level of violence and smoothness. Through three episodes, there are some exciting, well-made action scenes although they are not as frequent since splitting them between three episodes necessitates this. Additionally, none of the action quite matches up to anything seen in the movies given that it’s a TV miniseries; however, there are several kills in which audience will strongly react.

The lighting used in John Wick movies like neon or bright pinks, purples and blues has often been associated with bi-lightings which refers to those lights that draw their coloring from bisexual flags. The Continental was a ‘70s period show so it went down from all those stylistic lighting types that were more heightened compared to film into more gritty dirty cop crime dramas you have seen during that era.

In addition, this is reflected in the set design. Classical and modern elements are both present in John Wick’s world. Clean yet has a sense of history signifying a world that wants to retain its heritage but knows the right time to move with time. The Continental series looks like it was shot during the 1970s New York City era. It appears worn out, covered with graffiti tags, and dirt all over. This is where people who’ve come into power have grown complacent and there must be a take-over by the new generation. As such, it’s rather ironic if nothing else to see Winston as the young maverick of the 70s knowing that he would be the establishment always fighting a changing world henceforth. Each subsequent generation is more progressive than the previous one.

John Wick represents something of a stylistic departure from The Continental concerning musical choices too. In contrast, John Wick had an affinity for classical music and orchestral scores. Although this remains true of The Continental as well, it also possesses numerous era-appropriate needle drops too. This should create an identity separate from those films’ soundscapes; instead they rely on generic selections that feel unoriginal and uninspired for most audiences today. They are familiar needle drops everyone has heard before now though they wish there were some more creative song choices in this series especially among lesser-known cult songs which match better with its secret underground nature.

The three-episode structure employed by The Continental is both helpful and somewhat restrictive at times because each episode runs about ninety minutes long meaning they are just minutes less than those of John Wick 1’s duration.Something I noticed while watching these three episodes is how well directors Albert Hughes (Alpha) and Charlotte Brändström (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) do at keeping pacing high while telling their story.

Most online streaming miniseries often pad themselves out or stretch material worth a feature-length film across several weeks but here, every episode is rich in details that sometimes make me wish there could have been another episode to flesh out the relationships and show not tell.

Secondly, the next episode’s runtime drags on somewhat as it serves as exposition. As the second act of the story, there are a lot of moving plot points that will pay off in part three. Also, part three which is the most action-oriented also feels like a repetition of John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum’s climax. The Continental has to conclude with its confrontation at The Continental hotel; however, this place now runs the risk of repeating itself one too many times.

By the end of this series, it is uncertain whether this is the first chapter in a new section of the series and we shall be seeing more of young Winston over the years or if that was intended to serve as the conclusion to the story. Some narrative lines are left hanging while others are resolved swiftly. Yet, it certainly works as a bigger symbolic ending for me if this is indeed where it all ends, and how Winston came into power.

Probably not what many people were thinking about or even asking for. However, it turned out to be an interesting take on that character further enriching two fan favorites and beyond that much-loved franchise. By the end of this series there are more super characters who may find their own unique stories ahead; give them a shot now! It looks like John Wick may be gone but with Ana de Armas spin-off Ballerina coming out in June 2024, it feels like there’s still life within this film franchise with countless stories yet untold.

The Continental does not try to reinvent itself; perhaps it would not make sense to someone who has never seen John Wick before but makes for a great addition in this collection and at least offers some kind of transition point into a new era.

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