Murder is Kewl

The producers of 'Wanted' took a great comic, watered it down and turned it into a stupid movie

One of the best comics of the last 10 years or so was a six-issue series called Wanted, by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. I mention this only because the movie Wanted shares the name of the comic and the names of several of the characters. Otherwise, the producers of the film paid good money for the rights to the comic book, and then they took the comic and threw it in the trash, and just made up their own story.

The problem with the comic book is that the protagonist is a very, very bad man. And he's not a bad man who sees the error of his ways and is redeemed in the end; he's a morally neutral man who becomes increasingly evil. Which would be fine if Wanted could be made into a small independent film, but what was made is more of an effects-laden blockbuster, and no one's going to spend the equivalent of Tanzania's annual gross domestic product on a film with an unsympathetic hero.

So Wanted was completely re-written for the big screen. Shockingly, the first change they made was to convert the protagonist into a good guy. Whatever; in 10 years, movie-making will be so inexpensive that someone will adapt a version of Waiting for Godot with production values that'll make the Lord of the Rings movies look like pixel-vision shorts.

The film starts with a text scroll that explains a back story (a 1,000-year-old fraternity of assassins, etc., etc.) that is later explained in the film itself. I guess the producers were concerned about declining literacy rates, because I can't otherwise imagine why they would want the audience to read something they're about to see.

We then cut to James McAvoy as Wesley Gibson, a loser/nobody who works a dead-end job for a boss he hates. Essentially, this is going to be a remake of Fight Club, only instead of starting a homosexual-themed boxing gang, the lead character gets his mojo back by inserting bullets into stock characters.

Angelina Jolie plays Fox, a woman who puts the "ass" in assassin. Twice. She tells Wesley that his father was the greatest killer in the world, and now he's dead, and perhaps Wesley would like to take up killing, as it's a growth field. Wesley is all, "No thanks!" and then he thinks about the fact that his girlfriend cheats on him, the fact that he hates his job and the fact that killing people is totally super-cool, and then he's all, "OK, let's kill somebody!" and they go to the headquarters of a big textile firm/assassin's guild and they make finely woven cloth and spatter it with tiny droplets of pulverized human being.

Then, just so we don't think Wesley's a bad guy, we learn that the guild of assassins, which is called "The Fraternity," even though there are lots of female assassins, who I think should complain about the name, but that's another column, really only kills bad people, or people who would eventually do something bad, like start a genocidal war or give money to the Democrats or something. "Kill one, save a thousand," is their motto, which is also the motto of Bank of America, but they mean it differently.

Then there are lots of loops and twists and etc., and also some really bad sniffling stuff about "boo hoo, people killed my father," "no, boo hoo hoo-er, they killed my father first," and then James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie make out, and they're both so pretty it's like watching Optimus Prime make out with Megatron, if you were 8 years old and just discovered your genitals.

The rest of the movie is intensely stupid, but in a fun way that involves things like rats carrying plastic explosives and Jolie walking naked out of a bathtub and Morgan Freeman going, "Let's just kill people who don't have dermatosis papulosa nigra" and everyone goes, "Yeah, that's a good idea," but they don't see that it's a trick.

The upside of this film is that director Timur Bekmambetov, though perhaps an idiot, is a visual genius. So he's an idiot/genius. Most directors, given a huge special-effects budget, just blow things up. To be fair, Bekmambetov mostly just blows stuff up, too, but he does it in glorious slo-mo, with each shard of glass lovingly rendered in CGI.

So it's a good-looking film, and it's way more cohesive and watchable than Bekmambetov's last couple of movies (Night Watch and Day Watch), though it's not quite as visually inventive. On the whole, I guess it's decent enough for an action movie, if you can get past the sad and weepy origin stories they paste into the middle, and the lame attempts to make the assassins seem like good people, and the kind of slow middle third. The very end is great, actually, so there's that.

But it would have been even better to see the original material adapted for the big screen. In the movie, Wesley Gibson finds the guy who's boffing his girlfriend, and punches him in the nose. In the book, he cuts him into tiny pieces and drops him down an elevator shaft. I'm just saying there's drama, and there's drama, and the producers of Wanted opted for the former.

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