Can the John Wick Franchise Survive Without Keanu Reeves?

Another John Wick spinoff will test the limits of the blockbuster franchise.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick’s fate may be up in the air after his latest on-screen appearance, but Lionsgate is fighting hard to keep the Wick franchise alive. It’s been steadily expanding into spinoffs, like prequel series The Continental — and though that one didn’t make much of a splash in 2023, there’s one more spinoff on the way.

The world of Wick gets a little bit bigger with Ballerina, a new film set between the events of John Wick 3: Parabellum and John Wick Chapter 4. It won’t give us another John Wick adventure, but Reeves is actually set to appear in the upcoming film. Reeves even revealed specific plot details about the film at CCXP 2022.

Ballerina directly spins off from a scene in Parabellum. Ana de Armas stars as Rooney, an assassin searching for vengeance. Per Reeves, she’s hunting a figure from her past: “She lost her father at a young age, and she doesn’t really know what happened. Only that someone came into the house and murdered her father, who had a tattoo. And as we know in John Wick, if you have a tattoo, something’s going on.”

Ballerina seems interesting enough plot-wise, but the film has faced a few setbacks already. Though originally slated for a 2024 release, Lionsgate later pushed the film back a fully year to film some additional scenes. Chad Stahelski — who’s shepherded the Wick franchise from its inception — is reportedly helping to sharpen the film’s action sequences. That’s probably a smart move, as the John Wick films are famous for wall-to-wall action. Even with Stahelski’s involvement, though, can Ballerina successfully step out of John Wick’s shadow?

Ballerina takes us back to the events of John Wick: Parabellum, and reintroduces us to the Ruska Roma.


It’s hard to imagine a Wick-related story that isn’t focused on the man himself — and it gets even harder with the knowledge that Ballerina wasn’t actually meant to be a Wick spinoff. It was conceived as an entirely standalone project, but when Lionsgate acquired the script in 2017, it was rewritten to fit into the Wick franchise’s continuity. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as scripts get overhauled all the time — but the instinct to capitalize on a strong franchise, with or without the figures that made it special in the first place, might be a misguided one.

The John Wick films skew so closely to the journey of their title lead, anything that strays from his perspective seems like a misstep. We learned this the hard way with The Continental: it was a fine series, one that expanded the franchise in a fresh way (and more than matched the action that fans expect from a Wick project) but again, didn’t make much of a dent. Without Reeves’ presence or Stahelski’s influence, there wasn’t much interest from the fandom.

That said, Ballerina does have a slight edge over The Continental. Reeves’ Man in Black is reportedly sticking to a small supporting role, but the fact that he appears in the film at all might be enough to garner more interest. De Armas’ Rooney will be the first new character to lead a Wick-related project, which does carry a certain amount of risk. But that just means that this film will be the first to test the viability of this world. Chances of success aren’t too shabby, especially after its reception at CinemaCon.

The world of Wick is expanding all the time, but pivoting from Wick himself might not be the best idea.


Lionsgate unveiled a first look at Ballerina at CinemaCon 2024, including Wick’s first meeting with de Armas’ character, Rooney. Reeves is joined by Wick alums like Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane, and the late Lance Reddick, establishing a clear sense of place for the film. The footage also teased some promising action, with plenty of close-quarters combat between Rooney and her armed adversaries. Ballerina even features a stunt with a flamethrower, which could be a fun parallel to John Wick: Chapter 4.

The John Wick franchise is still relatively young, so it’s too soon to say if it can survive without its leading man. If nothing else, Ballerina could serve as an interesting experiment — but as long as it tells a compelling story, it should be a success.

Ballerina hits theaters on June 6, 2025.

Related Tags