Sunday, June 29, 2008


Shoot ‘em ups are a hit or miss thing, they are either enjoyably ridiculous or just plain ridiculous. Add in superpowers and cast James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie and you would think the marksmanship would be pretty good. Instead, Wanted misses nearly every shot it takes. Funny? Meh. Compelling? No way. Exciting? Yes, but only if you’re willing to suspend belief in anything even remotely resembling the laws of physics. Intelligent? Only if you’re still able to say George W. Bush has leadership chops with a straight face. I’ll admit, it’s far from the worst of all possible movies and it is tolerable, but good? Not in a million years. Despite working with a brilliantly written graphic novel by comics legend Mark Millar, Hollywood seems to have little in the way of adapting ability. I’m going to have to condemn Wanted as indicative of Hollywood’s fading artistry.

To be fair, Mark Millar’s premise of supervillains killing all the heroes and then writing them out of reality probably wouldn’t work for general audiences, the graphic novel is too much of a self defecating sado-masochistic thrill ride for most people to appreciate. What we get however is little better understood and makes even less sense. A league of super assassins, ok. But a league of super assassins who get their orders by interpreting a binary code out of the way a textile mill weaves fabric? Ignoring the absurdity that is a code that was supposedly discovered a millennia ago, long, long before binary was developed, it’s still the simple fact that these people are taking their orders from some string. That’s the best possible thing they could think of, interpreting a code in string. I’ll go so far as to say there are worse ways to identify victims than fate, in fact depending on how you play with it, the idea could in fact end up being really cool. But instead of taking the idea and running, the fabric of fate is just a single shot out of many that the audience has to endure.

Speaking of marksmanship, I’ll admit that some movies can be the most unrealistic thing imaginable and still manage to be enjoyable. There are movies so outrageous, so far off the grid of reality yet funny and fun enough that realism can be tossed to the winds. As far as Wanted goes, the movie seems to go as far out of its way as humanly possible to be ridiculous. In the film, realism is a thing of the past and suspending any semblance of intelligence will only get you so far. There gets to be a point where you want something at least tacitly plausible to occur, but it never comes. Instead, they stick a not even particularly prettied up Angelina Jolie in your face every time something really ridiculous happens and pray that you’ll be so distracted by her assets that the absurdity of what just happened will be overlooked.

Call me crazy, but if I was going to watch a movie for a pretty face, it would be in the adult film section. When I watch something like Wanted I’m hoping for Angie the very capable actress, not Angie the really, really annoying and absurd femme fatale. Morgan Freeman will always be a pleasure to watch on screen, but not even he can make an asinine plot work that has already been done so many times before. James McAvoy? While he does manage to hide his accent well for the most part, there are times when it seeps through, particularly in one of his many whining sessions. Yes, McAvoy’s Wesley Gibson is supposed to start out as an insignificant jackass who couldn’t find a pair with both hands and a flashlight, but the trend continues even after he starts getting in touch with his fatal side. There are times when the whole, living up to my father’s memory and frying the SOB who killed him can in fact work, but for Wesley it’s just another reason to close your eyes and pray the narrative will end soon and the ass kicking may begin.

Don’t get me wrong, the ass kicking does commence with bullets flying, but the sequences can’t get past the, holy shit! factor. There just isn’t anything there past the special effects, no heart pounding, no adrenaline pumping, no OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, and certainly no plausibility. Sniper rifles are used like artillery pieces and bullets? Well it would seem these characters can’t just curve them through the air; they look to help from on high (your welcome Serenity fans) to make the rounds traverse about a dozen more skulls than any bullet has ever been capable of going through.

The absolutely implausible and incredulous action sequences drive a plot and theme that is less a story element and more a lesson beaten into your heads. The film stops just shy of leaping off the screen, grabbing the audience and screaming, GET LESS PATHETIC, DAMMIT! The graphic novel may do much of the same thing, but at least it does it with p’nash and style and sends the message in a way that the audience doesn’t mind being shown the pathetic nature of their existence.

Wanted has many things going for it, good actors, a great inspiration and special affects galore, and it is for that reason that the film particularly sucks. Despite all that, the film never makes its way past mediocrity. An OK way to spend an afternoon, it elicits neither tears nor shouts and makes do with a handful of oohs, ahs and the occasion chuckle. It doesn’t have to be realistic or intelligent or deep or even well acted, all I want out of this movie is a couple of good laughs and the stirring of a part of my imagination where impossible things may happen. Yes, that line comes out of Dexter’s Laboratory, deal with it. Wanted just doesn’t make the cut. It’s been done and said and fired, and while the neurons are left more or less in tact, they are no more excited than they were when they were playing two dimensional Gameboy.

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