“Kill one, maybe save a thousand.”
The Scoop: 2008 R, directed by Timur Bekmambetov and starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angeline Jolie
Tagline: Choose your destiny.
Summary Capsule: Guy discovers he’s a super-assassin and doesn’t have much problem with that.
Justin’s rating: Just say no to assassin groups, kids.
Justin’s Review: We at Mutant Reviewers have long ribbed the geek industry for promoting their more serious comic books as “graphic novels,” yet it’s not without a certain level of support, either. From the ’70s through the ’90s, geek culture has been viewed as niche, populated by pimply nerds playing D&D in basements and largely unable to be cool in any regards. In turn, geeks grew frustrated that the depth and originality of their passions went overlooked or were outright dismissed for the shallow patronage of football and laugh track sitcoms. One of the great fights of the geek movement was for graphic novels – which saw their incredible rise to fame in the mid-80s – to be as well-respected as any movie or piece of literature.
It’s been a long road getting from there to here (wait, am I quoting Star Trek Enterprise now?), but now that the internet and the popularity of scifi and superhero films has exploded into the mainstream, geeks are quickly becoming the norm – and with them, the respect for the quality of their achievements they’ve known all along. From 300 to A History of Violence to Sin City to Batman Begins to… well, let’s just forget LXG, Hollywood has sat up and taken notice of the terrific, deep, rich stories that lay between the covers of these works. I think it’s a great time to be a geek, don’t you?
Wanted began as a comic book miniseries about a guy who finds out that not only is he a natural assassin with uncanny abilities, but that the world is secretly being run by super-villains who have axed all those pesky do-goodie superheroes. Sadly, this intriguing premise was stripped down to just the “assassin” part for the movie adaptation, but somehow it still managed to rock hard.
Huh, who’d expect that from a relatively unknown director helming an R-rated summer movie based on comic books that slipped on by most of our attentions?
At the beginning of the film, our protagonist Wesley is a well-behaved, mild-mannered, law-abiding desk jockey. Obviously, that’s a sin of epic proportions in the movie world — he’s not interesting! — so the subsequent two hours is devoted to how he has hidden super-powers, how he can learn to kill and maim without being bothered by much of a conscience, and how he’s not going to take any crap from anybody. Yeah! From nice guy caterpillar to killer jerkwad butterfly, the transformation is complete.
I read somewhere that this sort of movie phenomenon – where an average guy or gal suddenly learns they have extraordinary abilities just lying around, waiting to be activated – is a reoccurring theme of wish fulfillment in our own lives. Chances are, we are not extraordinary. We’re just people, with our strengths and weaknesses, but very few of us outside of mental asylums or scifi conventions claim to be able to manipulate the Force. Our only hope for greatness pretty much rests in dormant mutant genes that might someday be activated by high voltage current while we microwave a burrito.
Anyway, good for Wesley: now he can kill people. After a painful training montage, complete with milk baths (?), Wesley casts aside any moral doubt and starts gunning people down based on the hidden codes that his boss Cross (Morgan Freeman) interprets from a mystical loom that’s been weaving fabric for, like, 800 years or so. That’s one big scarf!
It’s all silly if you try to take it seriously or question the logic, but Wanted doesn’t apologize for that – it just desires to be entertaining. Part Matrix, part Fight Club and all rock opera, this film zips through stunt sequences that make many other superhero flicks seem like hobbled mules. Plus, since the film entire is an anti-hero story, it makes for an interesting experience to watch bad guys with super powers do their thing. There’s a bit of flimsy ethical struggle by Wesley, but once he’s told to trust the loom, any possible barrier between bullets and heads evaporate. I dunno, I think I would keep questioning past the “magical cloth” bit, personally, but that’s because I’m not extraordinary.
Helmed by Timur Bekmambetov, he of Night Watch/Day Watch fame, Wanted’s greatest asset is its insanely sweet visual style, innovation and pinache. Timur excelled with these things in the Watch series, but he never quite got the storyline to any sense of cohesion; fortunately, Wanted is a lot easier to follow, in English, and has Angelina Jolie if your eyes get bored or something. She’s legally contracted to disrobe at least once per film she’s in, but this time around it got a bit more scary for me. Her kids are going to have a heck of a time once they come of age and their friends have compiled a series of movie clips into a YouTube video.
It’s not perfect – the action and message get pretty mean and rough at times – but Wanted never ceased to be interesting, and that says a lot considering the blockbuster competition that surrounded it.
- “Wanted” is a very weird word once you start looking at it for a length of time. Wan-ted?
- In the office at the end of the film a nameplate is visible on one of the cubicle walls. The nameplate reads “J.G Millar” which is a composite of writer Mark Millar and artist J.G. Jones, on whose comic the film is based.
- One of Cross’ victims is identified by the Gunsmith as “Rictus”. The main antagonist in the comic book is Mister Rictus.
- The graphic novel features superhero costumes worn by many characters but the film eliminates them, except the leather attire worn by Wesley and The Fox.
- There are no opening credits. The title appears as a headline on a newspaper well into the movie.
Fox: Kill one, maybe save a thousand.
Wesley: [upon being startled by Fox] I’m sorry.
Fox: You apologize too much.
Wesley: [awkwardly] Well, sorry about that.
The Repairman: I’m the Repairman.
Wesley: What do you repair?
The Repairman: A lifetime of bad habits.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Night Watch
- Sin City
- Fight Club