From Panels to FPS: WANTED (2008)

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First off, I’ve always “WANTED” to like the work of Russian-import director TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV. Ever  since I saw I trailer for DAYWATCH and there was that awesome shot of a car driving sideways on a building(!) I wanted to see that film and find out about this “VISIONARY FILTHY COMMUNIST DIRECTOR”. This life changing moment occurred in 2006 or 7 when my main source of content rental was from my Favorite Socialist American Institution—THE LIBRARY!—which I consulted, only to find DAYWATCH was a SEQUEL(!) to a film called NIGHTWATCH, but HOT DAMN the Library had BOTH of them! So I put them on reserve. As fate would decree and the natural chronological completest cinephile in me would prefer, NIGHTWATCH came first. And, OH BOY!!!…

Did that film ever freaking stink.

Like…wow. Just incomprehensible nonsense, even with the English subtitles on. I think—THINK—there may have been one or two neat set pieces. THINK! But there was so much mangled downtime in NIGHTWATCH I only stuck it out with my “REMEMEBR THE CAR DRIVING ON THE BUILDING IN PART 2! SOMETHING LIKE THAT IS BOUND TO BE PART OF THE GRAND FINALE!!!” philosophy/hopes/dreams.  Every damn boring minute I could care less and less about the events presented depicted before me. Scientists today now refer to it as “FAST 6 SYNDROME.”

So, THE END or FUCK YOU or whatever came on, and I angerly ejected the DVD my wasted tax dollars helped pay for. A few weeks when I got an email alert DAYWATCH was in, I let it ride out the one week ‘hold’ period and let some other poor CAR DRIVING ON THE SIDE OF A BUILDING(!) dupe deal with their life choices when it was sent to them next.

But Timur was eventually drawn to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood after a terse CIA/KGB hostage exchange. We got him. The Reds got Andy Dick and a relief pitcher to be named later. Taken under the loving, warming, indoor toileted wings made of money of UNIVERSAL STUDIOS he was to direct the “adaptation” of Mark Millar and J. G. Jones graphic novel WANTED.

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I hated the WANTED graphic novel. Haaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttteeeeeeddddddd it!!! But I’ll get to that in a second…

So when Timur’s WANTED hit the big screens I hit the big NO! button I have in my brain. On top of detesting the source material, the trailers looked like big budget CARS DRIVING ON THE SIDES OF BUILDINGS WITH TONS MORE CG dull to me.

No, It wasn’t until last summer when Timur and I finally met again when a step-daughter and I took in a matinee of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER. Now the trailers for ALVH look like my roommates many and ever multiplying cat vomit piles, but I won’t deny it. I’m a total mark for Abe Lincoln fan-fic, and even have some ideas of my own I’d love to do as comics someday. Plus Abe-Fic, as we ‘in the know’ call it, turns out fantastical gems like Mike “HELLBOY” Mignola’s THE AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD!  So like a metaphorical piece of Key Lime pie, I gave ALVH a day in court and Timur a second chance to make me fall in love with him, which, as you may recall, is what I was after all along.

“Out with the jive, in the love.” That’s my motto

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Well after sitting thru the complimentary 23 minutes of trailers, this really long trailer starts. And it keeps going. 15 minutes later I realize I’m watching ALVH. Just as The Doors had no bass, ALVH had no opening credits. It just…started. It then proceeded to throw a mind-numbing barrage of CG at you until it was over.

Like I said  I love Abe. I love the Civil War—the mythos and stories, Ken Burns style, anyways. It’s a fascinating and game changing part of America’s history. Besides the year earlier I had vacationed in and was wowed by Washington, DC. In particular Ol’ Linc’s big-ass monument. There was literally energy exuding off that statue. It was a magical experience. So yes, I thought seeing him fight Vampires might be a good idea.

I’ll admit, once the pointless origin story of YOUNG Abe Lincoln that took up 2/3rds of the films run time ended and it got into the Civil War and PRESIDENT LINCOLN, I was 100% on board, if only cause I was sick of being bored. And seeing PRESIDENT Lincoln is what I came for. The CG was impressively ugly, the climax on the burning train was pretty rad, and I think even the real Mr Lincoln only turned half-way over in his grave, giving ALVH a solid C-.

Anyway, after that night, I wrote off Timur Bekmambetov for good. I decided then and there Timur was a modern-day ED WOOD.

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More like a time travelling Ed Wood. Imagine Wood was transported to the future just as he started making pictures. So instead of GLEN OR GLENDA being an unsellable bomb, it wins Best Original Screenplay and Ed gets Best Promising Talent at the Sundance Film festival or something.  Next thing you know, after another terse hostage exchange, Ed too finds himself in the glitz and glamour of Studio Hollywood. Now Ed just wants to get into the studios “Indie Film” department and do a little picture he had a treatment for called JAILBAIT. But Hollywood said, “No, Ed! You Must Direct Next Summer’s Big (Hopefully) Tentpole Comic Adaptation!”

Ed is torn. Does he “sell-out”? Do a big studio, CG heavy film or two so then he can Soderbergh it and finance his own smaller, personal projects? Or say DAMN IT ALL and just knock on doors getting money to produce his passion projects he’ll earn artist merit for instead? Well, Ed’s walking the streets of Hollywood, in drag, and enters a bar to have a few and drown his sorrows. Well, if you’ve seen ED WOOD, you know what comes next and what Ed’s decision is. That’s right, ORSON WELLES himself buys Ed a drink, talks shop, and encourages him to follow his gut. Why if Orson hadn’t done it, CITIZEN KANE would have never happened.

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Only hitch, our Ed Wood is in the future, remember? And instead of running into Welles Ed finds himself in the middle of a Pub Crawl being organized by Michael Bay. There’s Shia! There’s Bieber! And my god, how many strippers can they fit on that party van?!?!

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Anyway, Eddy has his moment of fate with Michael Bay who totally tells WOOD to sell him out and enjoy the ride. As Bay begins prattling off Domestic and International Box Office on all three Transformers, Ed’s ears go numb. Quickly his whole body is numb. Before he can realize his brain is numb, it goes numb.

The next thing Wood knows it’s eight days later. He’s across the table from Universal Execs, Angelina Jolie and signing off on the $75 million bonding agreement to have the film WANTED done on time and on or under budget or he loses imput on the final cut.

So that’s why I never had a desire to see WANTED. But I write this column now…and I found the DVD for $1, and so…here we are. WANTED. But before we get into Timur Wood’s WANTED, we rrreeaaaalllyyyy need to get back to the original WANTED graphic novel, like I said I would.

First off, you need to know a few things about series creator and writer MARK MILLAR. Mark Millar is very popular in the mainstream “Superhero” comic book field. In addition to WANTED he created/wrote KICK-ASS and THE ULTIMATES–who are the Avengers in ULTIMATE MARVEL comic line. The Ultimates was not only adapted into an animated film, but you know that AVENGERS movie you loved so much? It’s general premise was lifted wholesale, down to the fact ULTIMATES artist BRYAN HITCH jokingly redesigned NICK FURY in the ULTIMATES universe to look exactly like SAMUEL L JACKSON, and well…you know the rest.

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So why is Millar so popular? HE KNOWS HIS AUDIENCE! And the modern superhero comic buying audience are sad, overweight men in their late 20’s to early 50’s who want grown up versions of their heroes because they’ve grown up. So MARK MILLAR makes PG-13 to hard R comics exclusively! Cause Ultra-violence, sex, and swearing is the only thing that can make superhero storytelling cool, right? Seriously, go to a local comic shop and pick up the latest issue of WOLVERINE. It’s like a Grindhouse film.

Not to say Miller’s writing is bad. THE ULTIMATES was a romp and features the greatest CAPTAIN AMERICA during WW2 line ever:

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WANTED is one of those hard R comics. In fact he originally pitched it to DC COMICS for a SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS reboot series. DC COMICS turned down this hard R “Elseworld” story of DC villains run amok in a world without superheroes.  But the very popular Millar got the amazingly talented cartoonist J.G. JONES to draw his modified script and IMAGE/TOP COW Comics to print it, and thus WANTED was born, and it was a huge nasty, distasteful hit!

And when I said Millar “modified” the scripts, he just changed the names. Period. He now claims the villains were only ever ONCE to be seen in the costumes that are direct homages/outright thefts of DC characters, both good and evil. Instead Millar claims he and Jones “forgot” so the whole graphic novel is just reading a second-hand, Ultra-Violent Tijuana Bible of DC comics.

I can throw the movie into the mix now, besides 100% dropping the costumed super villains costumes, it dropped an overly elaborate plot of multiple gangs of super baddies and backstabbing run amok in favor of a slightly less complicated, if not outright by-the-numbers, steal from every trilogy (STAR WARS, THE MATRIX, LORD OF THE RINGS), throw in the silliest MacGuffin ever, add the old HERO REJECTING THE CALL OF DUTY schtick, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, and let cool 5 minutes before serving. But more or less, the JIST of the comic is in the films plot. Kinda.

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See in both the comic and film our “hero”, JAMES McAVOY, a total loser working in a cube, abused by his boss, knowingly allowing his best friend to keep schtupting his live-in girlfriend, being heavily medicated on anxiety pills for his heart from beating too fast(this was just the film I believe), and just generally sucking at being alive. Suddenly his life is turned upside when he’s shot at, saved by a woman named FOX–Millar’s thinly veiled Catwoman, and Timur’s thin performance turning-in ANGELINA JOLIE.

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FOXWOMAN JOLIE tells loser JAMES McAVOY his father was just killed, his father was Millar’s BATMAN knock-off, and now he has to join to THE FRATERNITY, a secret organization of highly trained assassins who all have MATRIX POWERS that he needs to learn how to use to kill the guy who killed his father.

Now, before we go further we need to talk about JAMES McAVOY. I personally really like McAvoy as an actor, ever since he was the Faun in LION, WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Hell, I even loved him in the saccharine PENELOPE. And let us not forget he stepped into PATRICK STEWART’s shoes as PROF. X in X-MEN: STEERAGE CLASS and totally had those shoes resized cause he OWNED the young CHARLES XAVIER in that film. But in this movie. UUUGGGKKK!!! I think the only direction he was given via Timur’s CIA interpreter/handler was “Be like LUKE SKYWALKER level of whiny at beginning of NEW HOPE but turn it up to 99!” And that’s what McAVOY did, and he was utterly awful and wasted in this film. Even when the character finally ANSWERS THE CALL, you don’t give a fffffuuuuuuuuuuuuudge! Plus what’s better than a totally unlikable main character in an already unlikable film? (Still, it grossed $315,000,000+ all together, so what do I know?)

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Anyway, McAVOY joins the FRAT where he meets the FRATS leader MORGAN FREEMAN, who turns in the most phoned-in/checked-out performances of his life. MO acts as MORPHEUS to McAVOY’s NEO and lets him in on all the special powers he’ll learn—all THE SAME special powers everyone else in the FRAT has.  That heart condition/anxiety attacks McAVOY has? That’s just that his heart can pump 400 times faster than normal and give him so much adrenaline he can achieve BULLET TIME. Also, he’ll be an expert fighter and killer, he’ll BEND BULLETS by basically doing a curveball motion before you fire your gun, and most importantly he gains the all-important skill of being able to take the EL-train without paying for tickets. Just run on top of it, duh!

So FOXWOMAN JOLIE, evidently reprising her role from GONE IN 60 SECONDS since 95% of her screen time is dedicated to her stealing and driving cars, is assigned to be McAVOY’s mentor cause MO needed to go call his agent. JOLIE matches MO’s lifelessness performance pound-for-fake-tattooed-pound. For instance: during the 30 minutes training montage where all she does is stand around making scowly to eventually impressed faces. She has about five lines of dialogue in all this and probably put in a solid fifteen minutes on the set everyday. Seriously the training stuff is beyond justifying typing words to describe it. That’s how terrible it is. And yes, it’s really a 30 minute montage of training before McAVOY accepts his FATE as a FRAT.

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So the MacGuffin: MO has the FRAT’s thousand year old Magic Loom that you can weave with and it gives the name of who the FRAT should kill next. Seems logical. Think they sell that at IKEA. So once McAVOY has accepted the call, he gets the name of the man who killed his father and goes to kill him. TERRANCE STAMP shows up for some reason. McAVOY gets his revenge only to learn the man who killed his father, who McAVOY just shot, reveals in his final breathe HE IS REALLY McAVOYs FATHER! He totally Vadared McAVOY’s ass!

That’s right! MO used McAVOY’s dad to kill the FRAT member he told McAVOY was his dad so McAVOY would kill his  REAL DAD and then FOXWOMAN JOLIE would kill McAVOY! See, EVERYONE in the FRAT’s name has come out of the Magic Loom, so MO points out he has saved all the surviving FRAT members by setting this elaborate scheme up, and if they were really loyal to the FRAT they’d have to kill themselves by law. So MO drops that bomb and says either to do that or kill McAVOY. Their choice. MO then leaves the room to return the call from his agent.

Well FOXWOMAN JOLIE doesn’t care for this final minute plot twist, and before everyone can shoot McAVOY she SUPER ULTRA MATRIX bends a bullet—ONE BULLET!—that flies around the whole room, going thru everyone’s brain—including HERS!—leaving only McAVOY alive.

McAVOY then reads the most mean-spirited voiceover ever dubbed over a film and kills MO. McAVOY then turns to the camera, breaking the forth wall, and telling you to fuck off with your stupid life. LITERALLY! Roll credits.

WANTED the comic was violent and crass in much worse ways then the movie and offended me to no end, but at least it tried to make some kind of ugly statement on comic book superhero mythos. WANTED the movie was just a relentless piece of unoriginal, empty pap.

Timur. It’s over. For real this time. Don’t call me at this number anymore.

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