Drawn from Mark Millar’s hyper violent, supernatural comic of the same title, Wanted the movie drops both Millar’s supernatural elements and, frankly, the element of pure evil that made it vastly different from most of the “graphic novels” out there.
Wanted, both book and movie, is the story of Wesley Gibson a neurotic, anxiety prone, cheated upon, brow-beaten, dishrag of a man who just happens to be the son of the most talented assassin in the world. His recruitment by Fox (Angelina Jolie in a role that in the comic was clearly penned for Halle Berry) fills him and us in on the back story of The Fraternity, a group of assassins that has been operating for “thousands of years.” Their purpose: Kill one, a save thousand.
Sounds pretty far-fetched, right? This is where Hollywood had to deviate from Millar’s original text which has the Fraternity not as an altruistic order of killers descended from the practices of Christian monks but instead operating in a world where superheroes have all been conquered and The Professor has found a way to wipe the minds of everyone on the planet negating even the memory of those superheroes while he and his criminal peers who include an ancient Chinese warlord and a walking skeleton whose number one henchman is a living pile of excrement divide the planet up to rule as they see fit raping, killing, and thieving as it suits them. It is this deviation that is one of Wanted the movie’s major downfalls.
The film retains enough supernatural elements – the ability to “curve” a bullet, to jump a city block between office towers, to shoot someone from not hundreds of yards but miles away, a super-healing bath that can bring someone back from near death – that it stretches credulity even in a post-Matrix world. Granted, the stunts are amazing and it would be lovely to say that the devotion to the gun is typically American but sadly I can’t; Mark Millar is Scottish and Timur Bekmambetov, the film’s director, is Russian.
It was the necessity of making the characters and storyline even vaguely palatable to American audiences in the transition from graphic novel to film that is ultimately the film’s undoing. Wanted the comic celebrates not only the wantonness of violence but also takes pleasure in criminality for the sake of criminality; indeed, at one point Wesley, our nominal hero, wreaks violence on a bunch of police officers in a station house, including casually raping one of the female officers before he shoots her to death. This is not a set of characters or a storyline that corporate America (which is what Hollywood is) even at its most misogynistic and malevolent would dare to market.
Is it fair to judge Wanted-The Movie against Wanted-The Comic? Probably not. On its own the film is a slapdash, if intensely stylish, action film. To sharp to qualify in the “big, loud, and stupid” category, Wanted doesn’t even make for a good afternoon’s entertainment.