Friday, July 4, 2008

Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted

Happy Fourth of July!
I watched this movie last night with a group of friends and it gets an A for looking cool and a C for making sense. In other words, it’s one of those visually spectacular movies that falls to pieces once you start thinking about it. And unfortunately, it takes itself too seriously for the audience to write off the plot and character inconsistencies as good ol’ campiness.
The first third of the movie was really good. It sets up the apathetic Wesley (James McAvoy) as the perfect loser everyman. He’s an accountant kept constantly at the brink of another anxiety attack by a vulgar boss with a sadistic love for staplers and jelly donuts, he lives in an apartment right by the train tracks, and has a girlfriend who not only nags constantly but is also cheating on him with his best friend. Life is horrible in that ordinary, run of the mill way. If the first scene about weavers and assassins wasn’t there, I would think that I was watching a dark office drama complete with bitterly funny voiceovers. Well, then the assassins comes in and they have superhuman abilities like jumping 300 feet horizontally and bending bullets. The collision between borderline supernatural abilities and pathetic young man was strangely reminiscent of Spiderman minus the angst and with much more awkwardness and situational humor. For instance, when Wesley first brush with the Fraternity (the group of assassins) involves a car chase between a red sports car driven by Fox (Angelina Jolie) and a white van with kittens on it driven by Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), and all the while he’s screaming like a pansy.
Wesley’s transformation from spazz to super assassin is not gentle. The line “I imagined him to be taller” by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) sets up the tone that just because Wesley has natural superhuman abilities (which are misdiagnosed as an anxiety disorder)* doesn’t mean he fits neatly into the suave killer profile. The training montage is basically poor Wesley being beat up by different people and there’s something strangely funny that this montage isn’t triumphant, in fact, it’s rather sad looking. Without revealing too much, I thought the movie stopped being good (not that it wasn’t entertaining) when the humor stopped. This is when Wesley is finally no longer a scared dork/ cocky new guy and is now a cold, merciless killer/ man on a mission. The movie forgets that Wesley has been setup to be too ridiculous to be heartless killer and well, I didn’t believe that he’s capable of it. This is also around the time they begin explaining the background of the Fraternity and its thousand year history. It begins to raise questions like: if the Fraternity has been around for a thousand years and has been maintaining balance and justice in the world, how’d they missed people like Hitler or Bloody Mary or Robespierre? And also, if it is that old, why are the orders in the English alphabet? And a host of other questions that I’d also pose but reveal too much of the plot. The movie begins to raise questions about the meaning of Justice, Fate, Duty, and etc, but is unable to answer them in a meaningful way. It gets too serious. I guess the movie tried to create an atmosphere of thoughtfulness, but with which the crew didn’t really think that hard about.
So, fun movie. Watch but resist thinking.
*For those who’ve watched it, this is strangely reminiscent to Superman Returns.

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