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Blu-ray Review: Wanted (2008)

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Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted is simply stunning. And it has to be, because if the viewers aren’t stunned by the frenetically paced action and loud soundtrack, they will see how utterly stupid the story is.

Loosely based on the Top Cow comic book series written by Mark Millar and drawn by J. G. Jones, which had a terrific story that the movie foolishly deviates from, Wanted tells the tale of Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a loser who’s aware of what is wrong in his life, but does nothing about it. He has a crappy job with a domineering boss and his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, yet Wesley refuses to make any changes and accepts what fate has to offer him. So, fate comes along in the form of Fox (Angelina Jolie), who appears out of the blue to rescue Wesley from Cross, the man Wesley is told who killed his long-lost father and is now trying to kill him.

After a store shootout and a ridiculous chase sequence that loses all suspense due to the obvious CG work, Wesley is brought by Fox to meet Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the current leader of The Fraternity, a 1000-year-old organization of assassins. Wesley learns that his father was one of their members, which is why he left when Wesley was very young. The Fraternity wants Wesley to go after Cross because Wesley has his father’s gifts but needs to train in many areas first. Wesley needs time to decide, as if there was ever any doubt of which path he would choose.

Another of many false notes is when Wesley is training to manipulate bullets to move around objects. He is having trouble and then Fox offers to risk her life by taking part. Lo and behold, he completes the task.

When Wesley is ready for his first mission, his victim, as with all victims of The Fraternity, is determined by the incorrect stitching of an electric loom, which creates a binary code that spells out names. Eventually Wesley goes after Cross, which provides the viewer with the “great” twist of the story, although considering how many movies have already been cribbed from by this point, it’s not much of a surprise. Plus, once the truth is revealed it causes the previous behavior of some characters to be forced and unbelievable.

To be fair, there could be other reasons the movie is so flawed, like maybe the crew purposely created something so horrible out of spite because they have such contempt for the type of person who enjoys a movie where the plot doesn’t get in the way of the gunfire and explosions. One example to prove this point is the scene of Fox’s origin. She tells a story about a little girl whose father was a judge. He was working a trial involving some bad people who sent a killer to his home. The killer then burned initials into the girl’s neck so she would never forget. Fox never says she was the little girl, but as she turns away to ensure the audience gets it through their thick skulls, Bekmambetov offers a close-up of (dun dun dun) her neck scarred with initials. Gasp!

However, this same scene also ties in with the possibility that the crew suffers from group self-loathing and are all trying to undermine their careers by creating such a terrible movie because at no other time do we see the scars. Is it really possible that this major continuity error slipped by the screenwriters, the director, the producers, the script supervisor, the camera crew, the editors, the make-up people, and even the actors?

I am willing to concede the possibility that the intention of the scene was Fox trying to trick Wesley, but then he looks like an idiot for not having noticed that she only had the scars during that one moment. I could go on and on with the script problems, but I shouldn’t spend more time on the plot than the writers did.

On the plus side for those who don’t care about story and logic, Wanted has some great-looking Matrix-esque visual effects, especially the opening sequence and the shot of a character jumping through a glass window and the pieces slowly falling away from his body. Unfortunately, the effects go so far over the top at times that not only do they defy physics but all sense of danger for the characters as well. They should have just created an action reel instead of trying to couch the scenes in this ridiculous movie.

Those effects and the film as a whole look very good in High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1. There is a lot of great detail, from the carving on a CG bullet to strands of Jolie’s hair moving in slow motion. However, overuse of CG, like rats, takes the viewer out of the moment. The colors have a great dynamic range and are well rendered from black to white, especially the brightness of Fox’s cherry-red Dodge Viper. It pops off the screen.

The audio is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It has a hip, booming soundtrack with a score by Danny Elfman and Nine Inch Nails’ “Every Day is Exactly the Same.” The bass is overmodulated at times, causing distortion through the speakers and subwoofer. Surprisingly in a movie so focused on action, the dialogue is well balanced in the mix.

Blu-ray offers U-Control, which allows access to picture-in-picture commentary track (and a fantastic option which allows one to have ability to alter the PiP volume), motion comics that match the scene on screen with narration and sound effects or that can be viewed separately, assassin profiles, and a scene explorer to see the movie from three different perspectives.

Other features included are the usual Alternate Opening, Extended Scene, and interviews of the cast. Because of all the hard work behind the camera, the disc offers a good amount of behind-the-scenes features for those that want to learn how the movie was made: “Stunts on the L Train,” “Special Effects: The Art of the Impossible,” “Groundbreaking [according to them] Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution,” “The Origins of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life,” “Through the Eyes of Visionary [it’s never a good sign if they have to tell you he is] Director Timur Bekmambetov.

There is also “Making of Wanted: The Game,” which is likely an ancillary product that helped sell the movie. The disc even offers a secret unlockable code (01001111) for the game to unlock Super Weapons.

When all was said and done, I wanted back the time I wasted watching this mess and quickly listed it for sale.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Dude! You bring up some very good comments and critiques, but I still love it!

  • Jordan Richardson

    Awful movie, especially when one considers how much better it could have been by sticking closer to the source material.

  • http://www.valegardenhouses.com Shane

    Movie was alright for a one off watch, wouldnt bother getting it on blu-ray or dvd though unless it was dirt cheap.