The August issue of Details Magazine contains the following quote: "James McAvoy made out with Angelina Jolie, and you didn't." Frankly, I don't need Details to tell me that my fantasies haven't played out quite as expected, but the first trailer I saw of Wanted made me lean back and go "Whoa."
It was lust at first sight; all that violence; all that action; all that Angelina. Even the aforementioned McAvoy seemed to fit the part, and when you add a deep-voiced superstar like Morgan Freeman to the mix, you have a truly intriguing story, cast, and overall movie you just HAVE to watch.
Imagine to my surprise, then, that Wanted, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch), was actually based on a miniseries written by Ultimates scribe Mark Millar and drawn by Alex Ross wannabe J.G. Jones (Final Crisis). Even more astounded now, I decided I had to see both, starting with the sure-to-be-fantastic movie.
One thing to remember with Wanted: The Movie is very much based in reality. Even the opening sequence, where we see man leap through a plate glass window out of a high-up office tower over to ANOTHER tower a few hundred yards away to eliminate his would-be assassins, you hardly feel like you've left the modern-day world. This is also true when you see people shoot bullets out of the air, curve bullets or do other fits of daring-do... normal people wouldn't be able to do these things, but our heroes can.
And that brings us to McAvoy, playing the role of Wesley Gibson. Wesley is like you or me. He hates his job. He hates that his best friend is fucking his girlfriend when his back is turned. He hates his father for abandoning him at eighteen weeks old. He hates his ergonomic keyboard. He takes medication for severe panic attacks. Okay, maybe not QUITE like you or me. Wesley is used to being pushed around. He's never been the assertive type, used to being stepped on and never sure how to stop it. Along comes Fox (Jolie) who tells him his father was killed in our opening scene not too long ago, and after a bit of wild driving, she brings him to the Fraternity, led by the great Freeman as Sloan, who would train Wesley to be good enough to kill the rebel assassin who killed his dad.
First of all, the action sequences are fantastic. The only real hiccup is the driving scene with Jolie and McAvoy being chased by the bad guy (King Kong's Thomas Kretschmann) in which the camera gets a little too close and obscures some of the action. Besides that, though, the movie's action scenes are flawless, constantly letting blood and bending the fabric of reality to make everything both believable and unbelievable at the same time. I always knew Jolie could act, and McAvoy is fantastic as both the sniveling worm he starts as and the hardened killer he becomes. Other strong performances include Kretschmann and Common, who plays one of Wesley's trainers. Sadly, it seems that Morgan Freeman mails in his performance, though it didn't hurt the movie any with him at only half-strength. There are also some scenes that are a little TOO out there (animal rights activists will have trouble with a couple of scenes, though a slight reminder that this is just a movie should alleviate those concerns) and ridiculous, but nothing that detracts from the final product.
In all, Wanted is a fantastic movie. It's got acting, action, mythology and just plain bad-assness, all the while rooting itself in the real world in a completely believable fashion. I highly recommend it to any who haven't watched it yet. And if you have, make definite plans to pick it up on DVD, which it probably will by this Christmas.
I wish there were an easier way to compare the movie and the graphic novel well. I definitely liked the book, but I LOVED the movie so much more. However, it's hardly an even playing field, as the two mediums are so different that their disparate traits outnumber their similarities by a wide margin.
First of all, the majority of the story takes place in New York City (in the movie, it was Chicago). It starts off the same though, with anger and violence ripping through the first few scenes before we even get to Wesley. It's obvious from the start that there are some issues that take place in the book that don't place in the movie (racism, gender degradation, homosexuality, even excess violence).
But probably the most pointed difference between the book and the movie is that in the book, the Brotherhood are in reality a league of super villains. (Note: That wasn't a spoiler, if you read the FIRST ISSUE you'll see I'm right; they lay it out up front) Years ago, they organized, teamed up on the population of super heroes, and killed all of them. Then they wiped the memories of these heroes from the minds of the populace and now they run the world like a black-curtained Illuminati. As a member of the Fraternity, you can destroy, kill, rape, and rob with impunity, never being blamed for your actions. And Wesley's in since his dad was The Killer, a super assassin who never missed. Obviously, this changes the whole scheme of the universe, but I still liked the movie's ability to ground in reality, while the books seems far-fetched and full of holes.
Jones definitely loves his celebrity faces, as the main characters in the story look like Eminem, Halle Berry and Tommy Lee Jones. His art is actually very good, though some flashback sequences are drawn by Dick Giordano (The Phantom) and don't work as well. Jones is definitely the superior artist, and the vulgar and violent undertones are done well here.
Disappointing though is Millar's writing, which doesn't adopt the redemption story in the movie and instead the message the book seems to be trying to get across is "Fuck the world". On top of that, uninspired characters (Sucker, Fuck-Wit and Shit-Head are some such villains who don't amount to crap) and a general plot malaise don't quite live up to the clever dialogue and occasionally hilarious one-liners. If this had been more like the movie's story, instead of ANOTHER super-hero story, it might have been a little more original and stood out from the acres upon acres of indie super stores that exist out there today.
I picked up the Assassin's Edition of the Wanted novel, which includes some fantastic concept art, storyboards, covers, character dossiers and creator interviews. These are almost worth the price of admission alone, but I guess it depends on how much you like extras.
So there you have it! For once, the movie is BETTER than the book! Who'd a' thunk it? I hope you enjoyed this review, we're looking forward to the next Latest Issue!