With the massive success of numerous comic book films over the last decade or so, most of which have been based on well-known characters, eventually the Hollywood studios would gain enough confidence in the genre to tread into somewhat unknown territory by attempting to adapt lesser-known comic books. Hollywood has previously dabbled with the somewhat obscure characters and comic books to a small degree, although their success rate has been hit and miss; the attempts that worked, and worked very well I might add, were films like “Men in Black” or the blockbuster “300”; however, the ones that missed seemed to strike out just as massively as the others had succeeded, examples would be “Elektra”, the spin-off from “Daredevil” and “Zoom: Academy for Superheroes”. The appeal for movie studios to adapt more unknown titles would seem a somewhat risky proposition, but Universal had found great success with their gamble on ‘Hellboy’, so perhaps their confidence was a bit stronger than most. Which brings us to Universal’s most recent film adaptation based on a lesser-known comic book, the critically praised and fan boy approved, hard-edged and extremely violent “Wanted” based on Mark Millar’s comic book miniseries of the same name.
“Wanted” is the story of a weak-willed accountant named Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), who lives an unenviable life where his girlfriend cheats on him, his boss verbally abuses him, and essentially everyone around him does nothing but take advantage of him every minute of his life. One moment everything in his life seems to be as mundane as ever, until a sexy woman by the name of Fox (Angelina Jolie) saves him from a would-be assassin and his routinely boring life. Now, Wesley is offered the chance of a lifetime from a mysterious man named Sloan (Morgan Freeman), who leads a group of assassins called The Fraternity, to embrace his hidden killer instinct and become the assassin he was destined to be.
With Hollywood’s successful comic book adaptations it seems a good rule of thumb would be to retain as much of the source material as possible, or else the comic fan base will turn on the property faster than you’d believe. Generally, I completely agree with the rule of staying true to the comic book material, and almost every single time an adaptation strays too far from its origins the movie flops massively; however, with “Wanted” I would have to be cliché in saying that sometimes rules are made to be broken. Helmed by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov making his American directorial debut, and written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (writers of “3:10 to Yuma”), along with Chris Morgan (“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”), “Wanted” loosely follows the storyline of the comic book miniseries written by acclaimed writer Mark Millar. The movie changes some of the characters from the miniseries, removes all of the costumes (aside from some subtle nods with Angelina Jolie’s leather attire), along with the notion that superheroes and villains existed at one point but no longer; however, with all these changes being made from the source material, series creator Mark Millar was still in approval of the production, even acknowledging his own wish to have removed the costumes from the comic book, though he never got around to it.
The screenplay is a mixture of reality based and somewhat science-fiction tinged dialogue and mind-bending action sequences, mixed with an interesting approach to the concept of predestination, all fitting perfectly together for a film in the vein of “The Matrix”. The story is extremely fast-paced, providing a semi-origin tale that takes the traditional origin sequences and puts its own spin on them, along with some truly innovative special effects sequences, and enough action set pieces to satisfy even the most ardent of action junkies. The characters are not the deepest you’ll find in a movie, comic book or otherwise, but there’s enough development sprinkled throughout to keep each character interesting for the audience, and not leave them waiting impatiently for the next fight to occur.
After so many CGI-intensive movies being released year after year, enabling directors and their special effects wizards to create virtually anything their imaginations can conceive of, it is surprising to me to still be able to watch a movie that manages to achieve some originality in the realm of CGI and action sequences. I thought I had seen almost anything that Hollywood could come up with by this point, but director Timur Bekmambetov and his team of creative special effects masters have crafted a truly awesome visual experience that will leave you saying, “Wow, I have never seen that before!” For some, “Wanted” seemed to be the movie that the two ‘Matrix’ sequels (especially the final one, “The Matrix Revolutions”) should have been. I for one enjoyed the two ‘Matrix’ sequels, but that’s for another time, either way “Wanted” is definitely a movie that is just as innovative in its presentation as anything found in ‘The Matrix’ trilogy. Although the storyline isn’t nearly as deep or complicated, or even confusing in some spots, as ‘The Matrix’ trilogy, I believe “Wanted” is still just as much of a fun and entertaining experience as the former.
Of course, the success of this movie wouldn’t be possible without the terrific work done by the three leads in the movie, James McAvoy (“Atonement”), Angelina Jolie (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), and Morgan Freeman (“The Dark Knight”). It is a testament to the talent of these superstars to be able to give credibility, and even some depth to such a far-fetched story, and still be able to walk away with their respect intact and their “cool” factor definitely through the roof. Anybody that has seen any of James McAvoy’s previous films will no doubt be surprised by not only his choice of signing on to a movie such as this, but also by the fact that he pulls off the role of an action hero surprisingly well. Angelina Jolie is no stranger to action heroines due to her successful turns in the ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ movies and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, though lately she has done more serious dramatic acting, it was nice to see her cut loose once again and still look just as good doing it as she ever did. Veteran actor Morgan Freeman is another big surprise to find in this movie, sure he’s done the last two ‘Batman’ films, but this role comes much more out of left field than any of his previous work, yet he still gives a great performance. On a side note, there is something strangely humorous about hearing Morgan Freeman channel his inner Samuel L. Jackson at one point in this film.
“Wanted” is by far one of the most visually impressive action films you will ever see, with an interesting story that moves at break neck speed, but doesn’t allow for a whole lot of character development, although you don’t really miss it. The movie is extremely violent and proud of it I might add, approaching the action genre with a boldness to push itself hard into an R rating, a move that many films (action or otherwise) seem afraid to do here lately.
“Wanted” is rated R for violence, language, and brief nudity/sexuality.