Wanted is the latest in a string of Hollywood comic book adaptations and it has big stars and even bigger explosions. The story tells of a young man Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) living a life of misery and despair. His employer is an abusive and overbearing woman, his girlfriend is having an affair with his best friend and to top it all, poor Gibson suffers from frequent anxiety attacks that prevent him from taking control of his life.
The film is based on the comic of the same name, written by Mark Millar and illustrated by J.G. Jones and follows very little from the original. The film reads through the first few pages of the comic and a couple of issues later Hollywood decides to dictate the action, story and everything else in between. However, it’s refreshing to know that co-creator Millar was deeply involved with the film’s production and approved of the changes.
Millar expressed his view on the film and his doubts on the initial script to Wizard Magazine, “I wanted the film to basically be the opposite of Spider-Man, the idea of someone getting powers and realising they can do what they want, then choosing the dark path. The (script) I read was just too tame. It just seemed a little bit Americanised. But Timur came in with his Eastern European madness, and he really made it nasty. He went closer to the spirit of the book.”
Director Timur Bekmambetov makes his Hollywood debut after his fright fest horror movie, Night Watch. Bekmambetov was clearly hired for his intricate action sequences rather than his ability to draw the character out of the actor or set the pace of the plot. Speaking of characters, this film has some pretty interesting characters and actors.
It’s strange to see James McAvoy in this film. Not that you don’t expect him to be here but strange because some of the film he starred in were more character driven and had considerably less bullets. Atonement and The Last King of Scotland brought the young Scottish actor into the limelight, but it will be Wanted that will make him a familiar face in Hollywood.
Angelina Jolie plays Fox, mentor to Gibson, and a member of the Fraternity of Assassins. Though Jolie is a considerably good actress she often does roles where her characters often end up without their garbs (Beowulf, Original Sin) or always comes out guns blazing (Tomb Raider, Mr and Mrs Smith). Her role in Wanted is part Gone in 60 Seconds and part Tomb Raider: Smart-talking, gun-swinging and generally pouting towards the direction of the camera.
The leader of the Fraternity of Assassins, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) offers a two-fold revelation to the young Wesley that will change his life forever: His father was a deadly assassin and he is supposed to exact revenge on the murderer. Freeman is at ease with this kind of role, you can clearly tell he’s hardly flexing any acting muscle, yet at the same time he’s doing a good job about it — kind of like that Mr Universe bodybuilder that flexes for all show.
Rounding up the cast are Common, the rapper-turned-actor who plays The Gunsmith and the token-coloured character of the film, and Konstantin Khabensky as The Exterminator. He was cast so the director would have a familiar face around. Khabensky also starred in Bekmambetov’s Night Watch.
Wanted has had its share of writers. Originally written by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, screenwriter Chris Morgan was hired to revise the third act of the script. And when Angelina Jolie joined the cast, screenwriter Dean Georgaris was brought in to tailor the role of her character for her.
This film is all about action sequences. Though we’ve all seen it before a la Equilibrium, The Matrix and Transporter, Bekmambetov does pull in a few interesting twists to the tried and tested formula of Bullet Time and Gun Kata action sequences.
Hollywood is mining these comic books for all they’re worth, while creators Mark Millar and J.G. Jones have said they won’t write a sequel to their comics, director Bekmambetov has already worked out a second outing, much to the delight of the studio executives.
Will Wanted be what fans want? Judging by the initial trailer downloads and the buzz it’s been generating, yes it will be — but comic book film adaptations are a tricky art. Judging by the current trend and rave, however, fans will definitely get what they want.