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From the Panel to the Screen: Obligatory Fanboy Wanted Review

Posted by Luke Brown On June - 29 - 2008

Going into the film, I had a ton of questions. Will Timur Bekmambetov’s flashy direction go over well with American audiences? Can James McAvoy be a believable action star? Will Angelina show the same indifference here as she did in Tomb Raider? Wondering if the film answered my questions? Hit the jump to see whether Wanted was warranted as an adaptation.

First and foremost, this movie fails on almost all levels as an adaptation. I mean, we’re talking 1984 Supergirl here. Despite having nothing more than the character names, selected dialogue and a few set pieces in common with Mark Millar and JG Jones’ comic, Wanted is fun, exciting and was a blast to watch.

Anyone who’s ever read the original comic knows there’s just no way to adapt that film. The movie going public would never support a film where the villain wins. The original tale works in the comic medium as it followed the burgeoning hero template and applied it to a villain. To me, there was nothing sympathetic about Wesley at all in the comic, and there wasn’t supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the comic, but even Millar knew the film would have to be different to succeed. Screenwriters Michael Brant and Derek Haas (3:10 to Yuma- the Russell Crowe one) do a serviceable job taking what they can use and turning it into something Joe Public would get behind. The plot is decent, but it’s certainly not going to win any accolades (except maybe an MTV award). While the comic was about super-powered villains, the film is about assassins in the real world. Brant and Haas find a way to keep the characters somewhat powered, and to some this will lend an air of unbelievablity. But if you can buy someone being able to curve a bullet’s trajectory, you won’t have an issue with the film. I will tip my hat to Brant and Haas for the finale, though. It was a nice touch, and a clever way to finish the film. Somehow though, the first version of the script didn’t deliver enough violence for Millar, and thankfully Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) came aboard to inject the film with action as stylized as JG Jones’ was.

We’ve all seen snipets of the “Angelina on the hood of a Dodge Viper” chase sequence in trailers. If you couldn’t get behind that sequence, you probably shouldn’t be seeing this film. I agree there is a point where suspension of disbelief becomes too great for a film to succeed. For some, the point may be an assassin being able shoot the wings of a fly. To me, it’s no more unbelievable than a tiny robot left to clean up garbage on Earth growing a personality. I digress. From the opening action sequence to the very last second of the film, Timur makes sure to give the audience highly-stylized unapologetic violence. Millar claims there were shots taken directly from the comic panel, but I didn’t recognize any. I did feel at points the plot was nothing more than an excuse to move from action scene to action scene, but it didn’t ruin the experience for me. The film owes that to having four critically acclaimed actors (2 Oscar winners, three Academy Award nominees, four Golden Globe winners) captivating me from open to close.

When it comes to the cast, James McAvoy is certainly the stand-out. His portrayal of Wesley Gibson allows the viewer to sypathize with him, in spite of a half-handed backstory. When his world is shaken up by the appearance of Angelina Jolie’s Fox, like us, he can’t believe the things he’s seeing. He’s a normal guy thrust into insane circumstances. I won’t be so bold as to compare Wanted to Die Hard, but I will compare James’ Wesley Gibson to Bruce’s John McLane. When both choices were announced, there was a lot of “What? You’re kidding. That guy? In an action movie?” I promise, that while McAvoy has much less to work with, he’s as compelling a lead as Bruce ever was. As to Angelina, thank God we get the Mr. and Mrs. Smith Angelina, and not the Tomb Raider one. She has fun with the role, and it’s rare to see her in this form any more. I wish she would do it more. She and McAvoy have a nice bit of chemistry, and that chemistry makes the sexual tension believeable. While there was a bit of controversy when her casting was announced (in the comic, Fox is based on Halle Berry), you have to accept the fact after Catwoman Halle wasn’t going to do Wanted. And, to be frank, she wouldn’t have been as good. Hearing Morgan Freeman curse as much as he does in this film is comical, and he knows it. Unlike Jolie, Freeman seemed unsure of himself in this role. He was stuck between reserved and a charicature, and it was a little offputting.

Of course, there were a few issues I had with the film as well. I don’t know who thought the way the assassins got their targets was a good idea. I understand there needed to be some sort of plot device to tie everything together, but I mean come on. It was contrived, and there was a better way. I know this because any other way would have been a better one. This is a personal preference, but I think Terence Stamp’s appearance was completely useless. If you’re going to have Terence Stamp in your film, you better use him a lot. The only other minor issue I had was the obviousness of some of the CGI. Angelina bumped the film’s budget to $80 million guys. No excuse.

At the end of the day, Wanted‘s success (and if advance reports are true, it is a success) means a lot of good things for comic fans. It shows comic movies without big name heroes can sell. It means better directors for these smaller films. Top Cow is already hinting at the “awesomeness” of the director they hired but can’t yet name for the Witchblade adaptation. It also means sequel. I don’t know how I feel about that, but if it’s as fun as the first was, you can bet I’ll be in line opening day. I had a good time watching this, and look forward to seeing it again. Despite it not truly being an adaptation, and the few flaws, Wanted is definitely worth seeing during the busy summer movie season.

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