Sound. Often overlooked in many a film by critics, reviewers and movie-goers alike, it is nevertheless a critical element for a complete cinematic experience and never moreso than in a film like JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. Speaking at length with director Chad Stahelski about the soundscape and sonic experience of JW2, he was quick to give credit to his sound team at Formosa Group for both JOHN WICK and JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2, most notably Supervising Sound Editor MARK STOECKINGER.
As I spoke about with Stahelski, it was easy to understand the intricacy of the sound design and mix of JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2, from specific sounds to the multiplicity of armaments and weaponry in the film, various caliber guns, different styles of knives, all of which are distinctive within the sonic scheme, yet blended beautifully not only within the sound design but in synchronization to the picture editing of Evan Schiff. It was clear a conversation with MARK STOECKINGER was in order.
As Stoeckinger noted in our conversation, it was important that everybody be on board for the same mission, particularly when working with a collaborative and effective director like Chad Stahelski who gives the directive, “I want it to be cool. Just make it cool.” According to Stoeckinger, “That’s a nice palette to paint from”, but everyone has to know just what “cool” is. Celebrating the uniqueness of the underworld in which John Wick exists, “the lore is open and you can manipulate it any way you choose”, something that allows for inspiration and new ideas.
Listen now to my interview with MARK STOECKINGER as he brings the sound design and editing for the world of JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 to life.
With JOHN WICK, a specific world was created; a world in which everything is distinctive, specific, exacting, yet a world in which anything can happen. The sonic elements created for that world became a requisite ground zero or starting point for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. Speaking at length with Stoeckinger, he explained that with JW2, the basic sonic world of JW is intact but expanded upon and none of which could have been done without the team at Formosa Group. Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll hear Mark talk about in our interview:
- We now find ourselves experiencing unique ambient sounds from locations and production design elements which affect the actual sonic timbre thanks to reflective sound. Perfect examples are the Roman catacombs, an ancient bathhouse, the open stone amphitheatre, the hall of mirrors. The design of each of these sites and locations affects the overall tonal quality and experience, as well as the echo/reverb that is created by the natural stone, tunnel and open air situations. Stoeckinger explains in detail how the specific sounds, as well as esoteric sounds, were created or captured and then integrated or layered with other elements.
- An unusual element within the sound design of JW2 is the physicality of the very nature of the martial arts which lends to its own unique soundscape. What did the sound team do to tackle that aspect of the film?
- Once again, from the opening shot, sound is crucial to JW2 as we hear a motorcycle-auto vehicular collision but don’t see it. Setting the tone of the film, director Chad Stahelski was totally reliant on sound in the opening sequence as he elected to open the film without the benefit of visuals showing the audience the unfolding action. It’s with scenes like this (and a to-die-for action sequence in a hall of mirrors a la Orson Welles’ “Lady From Shanghai”) that collaboration becomes even more important as cinematographer Dan Lausten, production designer Kevin Kavanaugh, editor Evan Schiff and Mark Stoeckinger and his Formosa sound team work in tandem as the visuals often dictate the sonic needs of the production.
- The big ticket in sound today is Dolby Atmos, both in theatres and at home. Mark talks about the industry “Atmos guru”, Formosa’s Tim Hoogenakker, and what he has done with Atmos for the upcoming Blu-ray/DVD release.
As for what the future holds for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3, stay tuned. But you can be sure with the JOHN WICK team of Chad Stahelski, writer Derek Kolstad, and cast and crew intact, and with Mark Stoeckinger and Formosa Group helming sound, we’re in for something out of this world.