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Movie Review: Wanted

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Wanted is a motion picture based on a comic book that twists and turns its source material, making it more marketable and palatable for the masses. Imagine if the same thing had been done to The Joker in The Dark Knight and how different (and less memorable) that would have made that film. Most comic book fans are probably breathing a sigh of relief that this isn’t the case with Watchmen (2009).

If the main characters from the Wanted comic book written by Mark Miller — namely Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a created-from-scratch sociopath and the insane killer Fox (Angelina Jolie) — were transferred in their entirety from the comic book, there would be no sympathetic characters in Wanted and no one for the audience to root for. So the screenwriters (and most likely the studio) watered the characters down, modifying them into heroes with a mission and a politically correct calling.

Wesley Gibson is a nobody, someone everyone walks over in life, including his rotund boss Janice (Lorna Scott) and his best friend Barry (Chris Pratt), who is banging Wesley’s girlfriend Cathy (Kristen Hager). Wesley was abandoned while an infant by Mr. X (David O’Hara), a world famous assassin killed at the beginning of Wanted. Wesley is later informed of this fact by Fox before they both embark on one of the film’s marquee battle scenes.

Wanted is filled with inventive, computer enhanced action sequences. Some of the action sequences work while some are too over the top for their own good. It would have been more interesting if some of the car action sequences within Wanted were done in real time as they were in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Death Proof. Because of the brazen absence of the laws of gravity, these scenes and others are transformed from action to a badly CGI-ed cartoon right in front of the viewer’s eyes then back again —  bearing in mind that Wanted's comic book roots do grant the film some license and leeway when it comes to some of its more preposterous aspects.

Once Gibson realizes the banality of his existence and is faced with what he can be, he breaks out of his unfulfilling life. He escapes to what he believes is an honorable brotherhood of assassins, The Fraternity of Weavers. The Fraternity takes him under their collective wing and so begins the obligatory yet creative training montage. Once again though, if you have read the Wanted comic books, you know these have been modified and tuned down severely, violence-wise.

When Gibson becomes a full-fledged assassin of The Fraternity, it’s off to the justified killings… er races, off to the races. All of the moral qualms about the murders The Fraternity commits are answered by Fox’s very effective back story. Wanted doesn’t have any three dimensional characters (though at times, Gibson and Fox do become two dimensional) but then most comic book inspired films do not either. Wanted’s third act does have a plot development that the viewer probably will not see coming because it was never even hinted at previously during the film. It isn’t one of those lousy twists but a pretty sinister and intelligent one. I was surprised; it definitely made Wanted better as did Fox's devout adherence to the code of The Fraternity.    

Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted is a film that uses the absurdity of its action set pieces to its advantage and not to its determent like in the Fantastic Four films. Wanted is far better than the viewer may expect and in some instances, far sillier. Unlike the Fantastic Four films however, Wanted doesn’t dwell on its gloss or its humor. They are only accouterments, not substitutes for a plot.

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