Jul 8, 2008

Help WANTED: Nerdy Bird seeks amoral supervillain

Male/female. No regard for human life. Enjoys torture and mutilation. Is that too much to ask? Apparently for the creators of Wanted, the film, it is. Spoilers ahead.

I was really looking forward to this movie. When I first saw the trailer I hadn't read Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' comic of the same name. It just looked like a fun action movie with a hot guy and a hot girl. In that sense, it was. But, as I thought best, I read the source material before seeing the movie. Big mistake.

The film was directed by Night Watch/Day Watch creator Timur Bekmambetov which gave me high-hopes. I knew going in that the characters weren't going to be supervillains but rather assassins and I accepted that, Hollywood rarely keeps everything the same. I also heard a lot of comparisons to The Matrix which is one of my favorite movies. 

The first ten minutes of the film left me holding my breath. You view David O'Hara,   apparently playing the part of Wesley Gibson's father, called Mr. X here. When he realizes he's the target of an assassination attempt he goes as far down an office hallway as he can, does some sort of breathing exercise and runs at super speed crashing out of a window careening across a city block to the rooftop of another building. He proceeds to take out the numerous gunmen that had been sent to kill him, a few in mid-air, until he's the last one standing. As in the comic, they were just the decoy and a snipers bullet from miles away ends his life by blowing out his brains. Nothing comes remotely close to touching this entire chain of events for the rest of the movie. Cool action? Yes. Actual evidence of building-jumping powers that we'll see throughout the movie? Seemingly not. 

Let's put that aside for now. Just when you think it's over, the action of the first scene rewinds following the bullet back through Mr. X's head to the origin of the sniper who we see. The actor is Thomas Kretschmann playing a character we come to know as Cross. You find yourself scratching your head at this point if you've read the comic, we don't see the identity of the sniper because there isn't one. But, go with the flow as they say right? 

Our introduction to Wesley Gibson, played so perfectly pathetic by James McAvoy, is the closest the film comes to the comic and any comparison to The Matrix. You're really able to feel how bad this guys life really is, right down to his anxiety attacks. Sitting in a cubicle, taking crap from his boss, aware his girlfriend and best friend are sleeping together and doing the same thing day in and day out. That is, until he meets Fox.

Granted, Halle Berry was the model for the character of The Fox, but she ruined her comics cred when she played Catwoman. One of the writers apparently rewrote the screenplay in order to tailor the role to Angelina Jolie instead. I'm still torn about whether that was a good choice or not.

Wesley is quickly brought into the world of the Fraternity led by Morgan Freeman's character, Sloan. If you're wondering, he's actually supposed to be Professor Solomon Seltzer from the comic. Why they felt the need to change his name I'm not sure. Anyway, Sloan explains they are part of a race called Weavers that have been around for a thousand years and just happen to have their headquarters in a weaving factory. I was almost lost until Sloan explains they have a weaving machine that gives them the name of their targets in binary code. Wait, actually that still made me feel a bit lost but I now understood the movie was going to completely diverge from the comic. See, the people they are supposed to assassinate are bad and will continue to do bad in this world unless they are stopped. Goodbye supervillains, hello for-the-greater-good assassins.

Wesley gets schooled in the ways of the Fraternity by the rest of the assassins, none of whom have nearly as much personality as they should. Most of them don't have many lines at all actually, including Angelina Jolie. In my opinion, the schooling went on far too long and didn't actually have that much effect on Wesley. By the end of the movie he's still hesitant about his abilities and not nearly as bad-ass as he should be. Sure he can curve bullets now but he still closes his eyes when he does it.

Turns out somewhere down the line Sloan's own name came out of the loom and he's been giving out false assignments for profit. Which happened first is not explicitly known, either way everything the Fraternity has been doing is called into question. Including Wesley's fathers death. It's revealed that the man Wesley has been waiting all this time to kill, Cross, is really his father, not Mr. X. Cross learned about Sloan a long time ago and went rogue. 

I was hoping somehow that the film might make a turnaround and have the same surprise ending as the comic. How cool would it have been if they all threw confetti then went back to headquarters where everyone was dressed in costume? But alas, Hollywood came up with a really depressing ending where we find out ALL of the assassins names had come out of the loom at one point or another and Sloan explains if they all wanted to keep exactly to the code they should put their guns in their mouths and fire. While something like that might have redeemed the ending, Fox decides she should take them all out instead, including herself but minus Wesley, with one curved bullet around the circular room. There's a bit more after that where Wesley gets to kill Sloan but I don't think anything could have been done at that point to lift my spirits.

I can't believe I'm actually about to type these words but...Angelina Jolie didn't come off very sexually appealing in Wanted. There. I said it. I'll probably be struck down by the God of the Hotties but there it is. She definitely came off cool but she just didn't ooze sex like she usually does. Strange considering she doesn't even have to try most of the time. This usually wouldn't be a problem for me but The Fox is supposed to be overtly sexual. Part of Wesley's training in the comic was her teaching him how to be better in bed. Jolie and McAvoy only share one on-screen kiss the entire film! Even then it's not an indicator of a relationship between the two but rather to make Wesley's girlfriend jealous. Thank goodness at one point James McAvoy came out with no shirt, dripping wet and proceeded to put on a leather jacket or I would have been concerned.

Something else that skewed reality for me a bit was Morgan Freeman. Cursing. In everything I've seen him in he's played a mild-mannered take-charge kind of guy. Someone you'd like to know, maybe have a weekly lunch date with to talk about life. Seeing Morgan Freeman as a bad guy was just weird and hearing him let the expletives fly was just plain wrong.

I know I've been a bit harsh, don't get me wrong, it really was an enjoyable movie. The action and effects were top-notch. I didn't expect a carbon copy of the comic but when you pull people in with an eye-popping opening like the one in Wanted and don't have anything else like it in the entire movie, it's a little disheartening. Next time I'm going to take "loosely based on" a tad more literally. 

Wanted went off on such a tangent that I wouldn't be opposed to someone making another one that followed the comic exactly. I understand people feel the need to have a "good-guy" in every film but in the comic the good-guys are just the less bad bad-guys and you still root for them. So please, someone, I want the fat "Detective," the menopausal Warrior Princess, Doll-Master with his creepy "babies" and most of all I want Shit-Head! Is that too much to ask? I guess it is.

9 comments:

Patrick Rennie said...

Morgan Freeman won his first Oscar for playing a pimp. :)

I haven't seen the movie, but I was well warned before its release that they'd stripped the superhero parts out of it.

Alex said...

I was gonna wait till this was out on video to watch it, but now I'm not even going to bother. Good review.

CMed said...

Josh enjoyed Angie's gratuitous butt shot (even though she could use about 10 more pounds), but I just couldn't get past the looming. And how everyone could magically translate binary code on a whim. I never read the source material, and I still hated it. This is from someone who loves mindless summer bullshit too! "Shoot this muthaf*ckah!!"

The Comic Book Novice said...

That was a well written review! I always find it difficult to do write my thought as they go alot faster then my fingers.

At any rate, yes the action scenes were action-filled, but I checked out of that movie during the mouse scene. I was alomst gone when I was trying to figure out how they got home from the train scene (talk about a high body count and no regard for life!).

And even with all that, the thing that got me the most was that the whole movie took place in six weeks! Six weeks for all that to happen?

...and why did Morgan Freeman give his "villian" speech at the end? couldn't he have just been like "Nope. He's lying."? Awful convient to have all the names in a little book during all that chaos.

Speaking of which, were the assignments "fake" or "chosen"? 'Cause with each assignment, the thread was included, stapled to the paper in fact. It was established that all the other guys could read the code. So our "hero's" name did come up didn't it? Or are we to believe that the threads were faked?

Lastly (there is more, but I think if I went on, I would get into Transformer territory and this movie (well, no movie) is as bad as that one was... How does making your heart beat 400 times per second give you the powers established in the movie? It was said however that "anyone can bend a bullett." Go fig...

The Nerdy Bird said...

@patrick, I did not know that, in fact, I don't think I ever wanted to know that. :)

@alex, glad I could help.

@christina, I totally agree with you about her gaining weight, she looked better before. And I'm glad you told me what you think, I haven't been able to hear from anyone who hasn't read the comic.

@mark, don't you know? The villains ALWAYS have to make a big speech. I think the names still could have been faked. Others could read it, but would they bother to after working there so long? Glad you held back. :P

Japanese Dude Girl said...

tl; dr

let me guess, you liked the movie?

The Nerdy Bird said...

Sit down and focus for 5 minutes Chuck, you can do it.

Rich said...

I caught the movie this weekend and enjoyed it for what it was - a big dumb action film. I actually don't think that it would have done as well if it had been costumes.

As for Jolie, this is probably the first time I've really found her to attractive - and she really doesn't need that many lines because she can do so much with an expression. The bemused look on her face as Wesley leaves the warehouse after the first meeting was priceless.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Yeah I think you're absolutely right that it wouldn't have done as well it costumes. But I would have liked it more. :)

I'm very surprised to hear you say this is the first time you've found her attractive. I thought she had a spell over everyone.