I didn’t know if it’s possible to be so jazzed to see a movie that then receives a fair bit of positive critical acclaim and feedback and then have it blow back in your face like a foul smelling belch, but after watching Wanted in the theaters, I decided that yes, I had in fact gone through such a scenario. My interest in the film was lukewarm at best, but between the trailers that painted it to have plenty of action and a fair bit of fast car elements, I was intrigued enough to go see it. So intrigued I offered to buy part of the groups tickets, which later turned out to be a giant mistake.
Wesley’s (James McAvoy) life is over – his pathetic, old one, anyway… Fortunately, it is all because of a girl. Enter sizzling-hot Fox (Angelina Jolie), who crashes into his life and introduces him to the Fraternity, a secret society of assassins, lead by the mysterious Sloan (Morgan Freeman). Seems Wes’s long-lost father was killed while working for the Fraternity and Wes has been selected to target the rogue member who murdered him. But before he can complete his assignment, Wes must first uncover the dark secrets behind the Fraternity in order to determine his own destiny.
You may say “wow, foul smelling belch, that’s a bit harsh don’t you think?” and I would probably be inclined to agree. See, part of the element that ruined the film for me was the audience I was with, as at every subtle hint of a character saying something witty or sarcastic, there’d be an intake of air and then a collaborate “Oh snap!” uttered. I get it, the audience was just enjoying the film, but as someone who generally doesn’t like to talk during films, I found myself looking over at my brother too many times during this one to even take it remotely seriously. And therein the problem came about—you can’t take this movie seriously. You can’t even take the serious sequences in the film serious, because otherwise you’ll just want to punch someone.
I love mindless action and I love stupid humor, but as enthralling as the film started out as, I just was severely disconnected from it. This is largely due in part to James McAvoy, whom I truthfully feel would have beat Hayden Christensen out for “whiney pretty boy that single handedly almost destroyed a film” had this been released in the same year as Attack of the Clones. At every turn McAvoy was constantly complaining about something and it got to the point where I wanted nothing more than to punch him in the face. I get that he was new to this world, but did he need to complain so much? It got to be like a broken record by the end of the film and his closing statement at the very end of the film all but put the final nail in the coffin for me as the film with the worst characters and dialogue of the year. On top of that the film’s other “star”, Angelina Jolie, was barely in it and the screen time between McAvoy and Freeman is sadly quite anti-climactic. McAvoy does interact well with the other assassins, but the final showdown with them becomes so contrived that your brains shuts off and simply says “OK, I’ve had enough.”
What surprised me upon conferring about the film with others who had seen it, the issues I had with it weren’t even remotely the problems they had. Apparently they knew going into it that it was going to be an incredibly ridiculous film with little regard for real-world scenarios and acting, but the problems they had with it was the sometimes incredulous action and “silliness” of curving bullets. How can you accept some of the worst sceneries of all time and yet find bullet curving ridiculous? This is based off of a comic book after all and that in of itself is a key element to enjoying the film. The gun fighting, bullet shooting and car passenger seat swallowing was not anything I had an issue with—it was simply the way the characters interacted with one another and the way the story progressed that irked me the most.
I’ll not tell you what I also found to be ridiculous— not that a society of assassins is super secretive and cult like, nor did I find it strange that they took their assignments from some ancient scrolls. No, I found the thing making the scrolls to be the stupidest element, as a magical loom that prints out their assignments was just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I would’ve been more welcoming of a statue randomly producing scrolls than I would be of a freakin’ sewing machine producing kill orders. Of course that’s resolved in the end too, so I can’t mock that element too much I guess, but I simply found it to be a ridiculous plot tool to use. Apparently it’s a part of Greek mythology or some such, but the way it’s introduced in the film doesn’t make this evident in the least.
So the dialogue and plot are quite contrived and the way everything ends up being a callback to one another, especially how McAvoy’s character apartment near a noisy train track was apparently pre-determined as well, but how about the action? Well the action is one element of the film I will never take a dump on. From barrel-rolling cars to a Dodge Viper going into a kind of power slide (considering a Viper is my dream car, seeing Angelina Jolie behind the wheel was a nice visual treat), the action in Wanted is without a doubt some of the best seen in modern cinema. The final shootout itself may trump The Matrix “Lobby Shooting Spree” as the most intense gun battle to date. I will freely admit that my jaw hung ajar by the time that sequence ended and that was with the entire weight of the film resting on my mind as being a stupid and silly waste of my time. I can only imagine how impressed I would’ve been if my audience hadn’t yelled “Ohhhh!!!!!!!!” at the end of it.
With all of this still fresh in my mind, Wanted did admittedly go down smoother the second time around. I knew it was ridiculous going into it this time and I knew what to expect from McAvoy so I wasn’t quite so aggravated on the second viewing. Even jokes I found annoying at first were a bit more humorous to me, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy this film has so many others have—it’s not that I can’t enjoy a quirky and off-beat action film (I greatly enjoyed Shoot ‘Em Up), but it’s the films attempts at combining a very comic book style plot with a serious tone that just put me off. At the very least the film is worth a Rental for you action buffs out there, but just know going into it that the writing is rather off-the-wall and the plots ability to maintain any level of sense can wildly change between segments.
Wanted arrives on Blu-ray in a standard two-disc Elite case (second disc is strictly the digital copy only), with a User Guide for navigating the Blu-ray disc and a code for redeeming the digital copy of the film. Also included is a slipcover with a combination matte/foil reflective/embossed print. Looks nice, but don’t try to remove the “Blu-ray Exclusive” sticker on the cover, as it’ll end up tearing some of the printing off with it, leaving behind a shiny silver surface below.
Video for this release comes in an AVC encoded 2.35:1 video transfer and as one would expect with a modern film, it looks quite impressive. Details are high, especially on the close ups and on clothing, and the stylized look of the film comes through without a hitch. It’s got a bit of a murky yellow/brown saturation to the entire film and it doesn’t once hinder the clarity of the picture here. Seeing a shiny red Dodge Viper in 1080p, along with some other things in high-definition, was certainly a highlight of checking out this Blu-ray. Not to mention the final shoot-out sequence looks absolutely amazing here and every whiney and pouty face McAvoy makes throughout the film looks crystal clear. Blacks are inky and there really isn’t much more you could ask from this transfer—there are a few minor elements of a smeary visual, but for the most part it seems Universal has mastered the art of the AVC codec, as they showed with their Hellboy II release.
Strangely enough after busting out a 7.1 track for Hellboy II, Universal has opted to stick with a standard DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Don’t get me wrong, this track is no slouch and will flip around your room and blow your face off with the subwoofer activity, but I’d expect to find a 7.1 track on an action film more than I would a sci-fi/action film such as Hellboy II. That oddity aside, the two channel difference doesn’t really stand out much and you’ll be making fake gun noises, making revving engine sounds and yelling “Sorry” in slow-motion yourself after hearing the sound mix this film throws at you. Even if the story and characters kind of blow, the film is easy on the eyes and pleasing to the ears. Alternate Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks are available, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
The extras for this release are nice and hefty as well, with a fair share to sort through (a few of which are Blu-ray exclusives). The first extra up is the “Alternate Opening” (2:38, 1080p), apparently an exclusive to the Blu-ray release, and while it’s always nice to see alternate takes on scenes, I can’t say this makes me feel any differently about the film. Also included in the “extra scenes” area is an “Extended Scene” (1:59, 480p).
Next we begin our reign of making-of style extras for the film. First is “Cast and Characters” (19:59, 1080i) which profiles…well, the cast and characters. The next few extras focus on the special effects of the film and include “Stunts on the L Train” (2:30, 1080i*), “Special Effects: The Art of the Impossible” (8:27, 1080i) and “Groundbreaking Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution” (8:06, 1080i*). Moving on we have “The Origin of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life” (8:05, 1080i) which delves into the comic book the film was based off of, while “Through the Eyes of Visionary Director Timur Bekmabetov” (9:05, 1080i*) profiles the foreign director, who made his American debut with Wanted. Finally we have a “The Making of Wanted:The Game“ (10:01, 1080i*) piece that focuses on how the video game rendition came about. Entries designated with a * end with a special code for the Wanted video game.
Moving onto the Blu-ray “U-Control” area we have a couple areas to poke around in. First is the “Motion Comics”, which area also available for viewing separately (13:55), play during the film. Next is the “Scene Explorer” which shows off action sequences from three different perspectives and the “Assassin Profiles” which you can read at any time while you watch the flick. Also available is a series of “Picture-in-Picture” pieces that play over fifteen of the films chapters.
Overall this is a pretty packed release and is worth taking a look at if you enjoy the film. The more I bash and write about this film, the more I’m beginning to think it may be the type of film that grows on you. Once you realize its ridiculousness and accept its flaws, it’s really not that bad of a movie. Just don’t watch it with an overexcited and sugar-rushed audience at 10pm at night and you should have a more pleasant first viewing than I. As with the film, this one is a Rental…but the more I think about it I can’t help but wonder if I should bump up the rating. I know I didn’t like it the first time around, but it could very well grow on you if you give it enough of a chance. Or maybe I’m just focusing on the good things (Viper, end shoot out) in attempt to forget the bad (the dialogue, McAvoy). Who knows; I won’t know for sure until I venture into this one for a third viewing and that is a long ways off.
Wanted arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on December 2nd.