Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Wanted" Like It

A few summers ago the movie Wanted came out and, for whatever reason, I was never able to watch it in the movie theater. But it had all the ingredients needed, including Angelina Jolie in kick-butt mode and a ton of action, to keep me interested enough to pluck the video up as soon as it was released and settle in for an explosion laden evening.

And then a curious thing happened-- I didn't like it.

About twenty minutes into the film I had had enough of the gratuitous violence and nonsensical plot, so I did something I rarely do with an Angelina Jolie actioner-- I turned it off.

But I have to admit, I've wondered if I being unfair as I sat down to watch "Wanted" the first time. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood... So I finally gave it another go-- and realized my first impressions weren't wrong.

The thing with "Wanted" is that it isn't really necessary to get into the general plot, because it's really only a cobbled-together bunch of nonsense delivered as an excuse for a bloody revenge fantasy. Supposedly based on a comic book series written by Mark Millar ("Kick Ass"), "Wanted" is the kind of pointless movie that makes the barest attempt at trying to find some kind of morality to make it palatable to a Hollywood audience. It mostly fails. I suppose I should give it credit for trying to rise above its source material, which appears in synopsis form to have fewer redeeming qualities than the movie, but I don't think anyone involved in the making of the movie cared much for rising above anything other than a meager box office.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is the "hero" of this story and I'd be hard pressed to think of one I find less compelling. He's meant to be a weaker version of your average everyman. He's the typical cubicle-dwelling worker bee, but he takes an atypical amount of harassment from an overbearing boss and a cheating girlfriend and his only coping mechanism is popping anti-anxiety pills and seething in silence. Into his less-than-average world comes salvation in the form of a gorgeous woman with the ultimately stereotypical name Fox (Angelina Jolie) who tells him that his weak-kneed nature is actually an expression of super-human abilities that make him the perfect candidate for a group of super assassins known as The Fraternity (which is the first thing I'd think of under the circumstances...) who want to enlist his help in hunting down his father's killer.

Gibson's initial show of reluctance is short lived once he inherits his father's fortune and he wastes no time in acting out the fantasies every emasculated wimp by verbally attacking his boss and using a keyboard to physically assault the guy who has been sleeping with his girlfriend-- naturally with the slow-motion close-up of his rival's teeth being knocked out by the impact.

Gibson then gets to learn what it means to be a super-assassin by training to shoot the wings off flies, curve bullets and other silliness like shooting dead bodies so he won't be squeamish when it comes to the real thing. The improbabilities continue from there as we learn that the leader of The Fraternity (Morgan Freeman) gets the targets for his group of assassins from the Loom of Fate-- a literal Loom that weaves fabric with a hidden binary code that translates into names. I know they're trying to be clever with the notion of Fate weaving her tapestry, but it's just ridiculous.

The biggest inherent flaw in "Wanted" is that it doesn't work as an anti-hero story. Gibson is meant to be the character we're supposed to relate to-- who hasn't wanted to tell their boss what they really think? But he's so quick to embrace the meaner side of his nature that he ends up a bully-- and a weaselly one at that. The casting of McAvoy seems to have been intended to reflect a Peter Parker kind of vibe; but in this world Peter Parker turns out to be a punk.

The movie never gets easier to like as it goes along as it seems to have been written from the point of view of someone perpetually disgruntled and dateless. The women are portrayed as either shrill or slutty. Angelina Jolie does what she can with the part but really seems to be playing a caricature of herself as she smolders and sneers her way through various stunts. She's the only person I marginally liked but I still found myself wondering why she felt this movie was worth her time-- same goes for Morgan Freeman.

I know it's kind of pointless for me to bother reviewing the film at this point as everyone who was mildly interested in it has probably already seen it. But I think it's worth mentioning because it's just so symptomatic of why movies are getting worse and worse. More time is spent on trying to make thing visually stimulating, though the clich├ęd use of the slow motion camera and spurting blood is anything but interesting or unique, and things like character development and plot are treated as barely necessary. It seems aimed at fans of soulless video games like Grand Theft Auto, and I'm sad to think it may have succeeded on that level. To me the whole thing just seemed like a colossal waste of time. There's nothing there that makes me think this was even a story worth telling-- and that's a really, really unusual sentiment for me. I wasn't entertained. I didn't feel the need to reflect on any deeper meaning somehow buried within. I can only describe it as an ugly mess that I wish I hadn't bothered finishing.


Jessica said...

I agree Wanted was stupid I didn't like it at all.

I hate what Hollywood is doing now why not focus on smart and good movies allow Chris Nolan to run things then those of us with taste can watch a good movie.

They sure lost points with me big time for not giving Inception more attention at the Oscars but that goes to show it's not about who's best but most popular.

SQT said...

Jessica-- I've read that getting an Oscar has more to do with knowing the right people than making a good movie. In other words-- talent and quality don't count for much anymore-- and it shows.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm with you. I watched it all the way through the first time but mainly just for Angelina. The story was just pretty lame and I can now remember basically nothing except the idiotic notion that you can bend a bullet's flight path by swinging the gun as you fire. *face/palm*

Blodeuedd said...

To make a long story short..did nit like it either. And not a fan of Angelina

M. McGriff said...

I'm a big Angelina Jolie fan but I remember seeing this movie shortly after coming on DVD and I wasn't crazy about it either. The ideas seemed way too far fetched and the only cool thing about it was the special effects. You're right though about movies going for the visual effects while sacraficing good plot and character development - it does make the state of movie affairs quite sad.

Michael Offutt said...

James McCavoy is so good-looking that I sat through this movie just for him. But him hiding his accent was deplorable and fake and I still have no reason why he couldn't have just acted in his regular accent. To date, Children of Dune is my favorite film with him in it.

SQT said...

Michael-- McAvoy was the reason I revisited this, but I'm afraid his charisma couldn't overcome the character. I am looking forward to seeing him in the new X-Men though.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

I enjoyed some of this film but was disappointed it wasn't better: actually I thought it wasn't crazy enough compared to Timur Bekmambetov's wonderfully demented Russian films Night Watch and Day Watch.