Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wanted


  Based on the comic book of the same name, Wanted is little more than witty escapist nonsense. It's Fight Club with all the über violence of a trigger happy video game. I don't mean to sound down on this movie at all, especially not right out of the gate. I really really like this movie. I'm also pretty torn about it. I saw the movie when it first hit DVD, late '08, early '09. It was fun, but nothing revelatory. No matter my thoughts on the movie; I knew, even then, that James McAvoy was a total badass. Not just because he got to shoot a lot of bad guys and look cool doing it. It was because he has that one-in-a-hundred tough guy stare that you just can't fake. The way he carried himself was that of a no-nonsense action hero. Whatever this movie did or didn't do, it gave us our first look at Badass James McAvoy, and for that, I love it.

  It pretty much takes only the first ten pages and the namesake of it's source material before going in a completely different direction. Which is sad, because a faithful adaption of the comic book would've been mind blowing. It would have been epic proportions of amazing. Unfortunately I don't think any movie studio would throw big bucks at a summer blockbuster that is essentially devoid of any redeemable hero. In the comic book, miserable office worker, Wesley Gibson finds out that his father, who he's never known, was the world's deadliest supervillain, and that being a world-class killer is hereditary... if it wasn't for a lifetime of being trained to be a total "pussy". Wesley ends up getting trained to be a ruthless costumed supervillain who can kill, maim, and destroy with no hesitation, or reason for that matter.

  The comic creates this world that mind-fucks you in the way The Matrix did. It makes you question things that you take for granted. The movie doesn't do any of that. In the movie, Wesley finds out that his father used to be a secret super assassin and he gets trained to be a "weapon of fate" as well. It's a much safer story. The hero is a hero, trained to kill, not trained to be a sociopath like he was in the comics. The movie is also really simple emotionally. It's an un-challenging action flick that employs impossible gimmicks ('bending' bullets?) and stylized adventure to make up for it's lack of emotional heft and intricate plotting. The comic was definitely a much more gripping tale, but it had the balls to be something that Hollywood would never touch with ten foot pole. Which explains why the movie is essentially nothing like it.

  Despite it's R rating, in comparison to the comic, the movie feels nothing if not sanitized. Having said all that, there's no denying that Wanted is an exceptionally well made movie that seems to have a firm handle on how to be slick and satisfying entertainment. From the ground up, it's a fantastically fun action movie. The visual style, the camera work, even the score is all bold and ambitious. It never reaches the genre-shattering heights of The Matrix, but it manages to infuse the feeling of originality back into the summer blockbuster formula. Even though it borrows heavily from a few other movies, and at the same time, is also an adaptation of a superior work of fiction, it still gels and runs smoothly. It's a finely tuned machine, right down to the pacing and dialog. Most of it ultimately amounts to nonsense, but it's clever nonsense. Not to mention fun.

  The movie walks a fine line though, it seems to be somewhat self-aware, but it's also not as clever as it'd like to think it is. I think "clever" might be overstating it a bit. It's more like... witty. Like the writers had seen Fight Club ten times in a row as inspiration before putting pen to paper. Not that I mind honestly. Wanted ends up feeling like it wants to be more than it is, and that's okay, because it's still head and shoulders above what's commonly considered mindless entertainment (i.e. Bad Boys II). It's like an aftermarket Tarantino/Rodriguez project. It has the style, the wit, and the flair, but none of the substance. It's escapist fantasy at best. If anything, it's never dull. I've seen it many times and it's definitely grown on me over the years.

  I'm trying to articulate something about it though that so far I've been unable to adequately put into words. It really does seem like it knocks off The Matrix and Fight Club, so it's definitely nowhere near as good as they are... but as a knock off of those two great movies, that does put it above the competition a bit. It's not precisely mindless, even though it asks you to suspense belief to the extent of believing bullets can curve. With nothing more than "What if nobody told you bullets fly straight?" as an explanation. There's no functional context for it. The Matrix had the perfect setting to pull out all the stops and do crazy stuff like dodging bullets and the like, but Wanted has nothing like that. It just is. You either accept it, or you don't. If you don't, you'll probably have a hard time enjoying the movie. It doesn't bother me that much, but it is pretty silly.

  All in all, come for badass James McAvoy (who's amazing facial expressions make the movie that much better) stay for the insane action sequences and escapist fantasy. No matter if you're reading the comic (which I wholeheartedly suggest you do, regardless) or if you're watching the movie... Wesley Gibson is a repressed office dork who undergoes a transformation into a ballsy über assassin. There's something so completely satisfying about that character arc. I think the appeal of Wanted lies in that little part of everyone who wishes they inherit a fortune someday from a dead relative they've never met. Only Wesley inherited superpowers and a knack for killing. Which is also incredibly cathartic. The whole movie is cathartic to be honest. It's not great, but it's great fun. I'd shell out money for a sequel if they ever do one. It's not like I haven't already shelled out money on the comic, the movie (on blu ray and in a collector's edition) the video game and the soundtrack. Bring on Wanted 2. I need me some more Badass James McAvoy.

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