Saturday, July 5, 2008

As in "Not what I..."

Russian director Timur Bembakmatov's adaptation of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones comic series Wanted is relatively high on spectacle and low on just about everything else you'd want in a movie. In sanitizing this story (which begs the question why put a movie about a ruthless asshole hitman who self-actualizes through ultra-violence into production in the first place if you're going TO sanitize it?!?!?) the screenwriters have completely missed the point of Wanted. I won't hail the original comic series a masterpiece of graphic fiction, but it told the somewhat edgy story of a world taken over by super villains and the son of one of the deadliest of them all self-actualizing through wanton acts of amorality. It was a scathing attempt by Millar to satirize and underline the dangers of adolescent power fantasies run amok. The film version of Wanted does away with the implication of super-heroes and villains and shunts aside the boisterous and gamey sub-text leaving audiences with a visually arresting but otherwise very bland text. All that's left is a sort of Fight Club/Matrix hybrid that is entirely disposable.
For example in the comic version, once young Wesley Gibson learns the truth of his legacy he actualizes into a murderous, rape-happy, racist little shit who indiscriminately kills with no thought of collateral damage. The world has become one giant video-game. The movie softens Wesley (James McAvoy) into an unfailingly polite young pushover who even after many training montages still never feels genuinely threatening or menacing. He also still wants to do right in the end...he just isn't going to put up with the man's bullshit anymore, maaaaan. Ugh. Spare me. Wesley is pulled from a grim desk job, anti-stress medication dependency and a depressing social life into a new world of outrageous ultra-violence by the Fox (Angelina Jolie). Now in the comic the Fox is thusly named because she's an analogue of Catwoman, but in the film no reason is given, though looking at Miss Jolie it's clear there is no need to ask. I will grant that Jolie's entrance into the film is laugh out loud perfect. Wesley is standing in line at a pharmacy awaiting his medication, the camera cuts away for a moment and then BAM Jolie is standing right next to our "hero." It's perfectly emblematic for the star, she's so gorgeous, so exotic, so damn fascinating that for her to simply appear without any sort of pomp and circumstance is more than enough. For a few fun minutes the film becomes all about Miss Jolie as she saves Wesley from a hit-man bent on killing him. The sequences is fun in it's audacity but after this the film loses its oomph.
Fox brings Wesley to a group of hit-men, led by Morgan Freeman's Sloan, who serve the loom of fate. Apparently this ancient loom spits out a secret code that instructs which key people should be killed. "Kill one, save a thousand" reasons Fox. This is pretty damn specious and ridiculous logic. Now as a comic fan I've swallowed all sorts of ridiculous conceits; a French militant gorilla being in love with a brain in a jar, an ape-boy riding a giant red dinosaur and a heroin addict shaman of the Earth to name a few of the sillier ones. But I think any of these devices would fit an action film better than a fucking LOOM OF FATE! What's next, the sewing machine of righteousness? The cotton gin of doom? I should take a moment to point out the loom is an invention of the screenwriters (who each had a hand in 2 Fast 2 Furious, for what it's worth). What follows is a lot of formless action as Wesley trains, ditches his old beaten up persona and becomes the prick he's always wanted to be. All sorts of training montages and hit-jobs follow until Wesley learns there is an entirely different layer behind Sloan and Fox's story about him. For a while though the movie is rough and formless. It at least stays visually arresting (credit Bembakmatov, he of the Nightwatch trilogy-someone please get this guy some decent writers) but Wanted really did have the chance to be a the sort of super-hero satire that I am hearing Hancock is not. If you like innovative action sequences (many of which feature cars crashing into things-at the behest of a loom) you'll get your money's worth in Wanted, otherwise stay away.

One more thing, I was incredibly disappointed in both the audience and theater management as not one or two but by my count at least five children under the age of four were sitting in on this film. Now while I've griped that this film is sanitized it is till loaded with hard R content. Not a single scene goes by without bloody violence, swearing or sex. For shame on the grossly irresponsible parents and shame on the AMC at the third street promenade for letting them in.

1 comment:

elaine said...

Wow, what happened at that cinema makes me ill. Unbelievable.