Saturday, June 28, 2008
Wanted (A Bit More)
The best review I saw for Wanted stated right upfront: "I Want To Fuck This Movie." Man, if anything summed up the feeling I was looking for upon exiting the theater today, that was it. The reality of the situation, after seeing Wanted, is this: I want to fool around with this movie, but it sadly falls just short of fuckability. And considering my expectations, that's a shame.
Don't get me wrong, this is most likely because my expectations were set too high -- this is a fun, dumbheaded movie, and I enjoyed the hell out of a great deal of it. It honestly could have stood to be a little dumber, as the parts that drag around the middle are the parts when that pesky story is getting in the way of the parts when Angelina Jolie throws cars at other cars.
The movie's a stylistic hodgepodge that owes an awful lot to The Matrix and Fight Club, co-opting the former's visual dimensions and the latter's "punch me in the face, faggot!" masculine posturing. The best parts -- the parts where the movie really takes off and you're sent into adrenaline-fueled giggle fits -- are the big action setpieces (obviously), the gleeful fetishization of violence (poor Chris Pratt, Bright from Everwood, getting his teeth knocked out was a highlight), and the more ludicrous plot elements. Seriously, the more whacked-out the concept, the more entertained I was. As soon as they got to the Loom of Fate (LOOM OF FATE!), I was more than satisfied.
So why do I feel like everybody enjoyed Wanted more than I did? The car chases were great, the violence was enthusiastic, that James McAvoy shirtless scene went on for a very long time. The story even made sense, within the weirdo parameters that it set for itself (LOOM OF FATE), and the plot twists stayed true to the characters.
I guess my problems were twofold:
1) The time it took to forge James McAvoy into this superhuman assassin too greatly outweighed the time we saw him actually performing as a superhuman assassin. The training got repetitive (and we already know he's going to pass, so I kind of caught myself checking my watch waiting for them to get on with it), and that time might've been better spent on new and interesting ways to shoot businessmen. Also, along that tip, Common and the other non-Jolie assassins could have seen more field time.
2) James McAvoy's American accent, while perfectly fine, saps him a good deal of his deep reserves of charm and humor and makes me wonder how much better his characterization could've been if he'd have been unbound by that. I realize that him being an American is integral to the character (you can't make a pseudo-critique on the pussification of the American male if he's not American), and McAvoy does a great job, but I couldn't help but play "what if?"
Oh, and if there's gonna be a 3), it would be that the aforementioned Fight Clubby cubicle-jockey-reclaims-his-testicular-birthright stuff isn't satirized enough...or at all, really. And the quickest way to take me out of the fun of a two-hour violence romp is to make me roll my eyes at the idea that the filmmakers are buying into that chest-puffing, pseudo-sociological bullshit. Fight Club did that right (though you wouldn't know it to talk to fans), but here it just kind of lays there atop all the bloody carnage, like someone decided there had to be a message to the movie.
This all makes it seem like I disliked the movie, and that's just not true. Good time. Hot costars. Fast cars. Curved bullets. Loom of Fate.
And it pulled in $51 mil at the box-office this weekend, which makes it every bit the success I was hoping for (enjoy your next giant paycheck, James McAvoy!), and with great word-of-mouth besides. In the just world, both Wanted and WALL-E would beat back the terrible-looking Hancock next weekend, and while a little thing called economic reality tells me that's not gonna happen, I can hope that they take a good bite out of it regardless. But that's for another post.