EXECUTIVE A: What was a recent, big-budget hit movie?
EXECUTIVE B: Um….
EXECUTIVE A: Something with lots of explosions and tits.
EXECUTIVE B: Uhhh….
EXECUTIVE A: How about “The Matrix?”
EXECUTIVE B: Yeah, that did pretty good. And it had lots of action.
EXECUTIVE A: But it was kind of cerebral. Moviegoers have a hard time with stuff you have to think about.
EXECUTIVE B: Yeah.
EXECUTIVE A: Holy shit, I just had an awesome idea!
EXECUTIVE B: What’s that?!
EXECUTIVE A: Let’s remake “The Matrix!”
EXECUTIVE B: Yes! Great idea! How about this, let’s get rid of all that stuff you have to think about and replace it with Angelina Jolie.
EXECUTIVE A: Fuckin’ A!
EXECUTIVE B: Let’s give ourselves a raise.
EXECUTIVE A: Yeah, we really deserve it.
*They high-five each other*
I really can’t imagine the brainstorming sessions that went into making Wanted going any other way than that. From beginning to end, this movie reeks of rip-off/remake/rehash of the original Matrix film. I did a little research (read: 5 minutes on Wikipedia) and discovered that Wanted is actually based off a comic book written in 2003-2004. I haven’t actually read it, largely due to my illiteracy, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it isn’t a straight Matrix rip-off like it’s celluloid counterpart is. I think they probably licensed it, decided it wasn’t cookie-cutter enough, and made all the original parts generic, in order to make it readily available for mass consumption. The problem with Hollywood is that they think we want the same shit over and over again, which is why we keep getting it. The original Matrix was fresh, innovative, and fun, so naturally it did extremely well. Hollywood executives, being the dimwits that they are, decided if lightning could strike once, then making a carbon copy of that film would result in another hit film.
The problem with Wanted is that they didn’t include all the little things that made the Matrix great. All they did was just release a piece of shit movie that has a similar story arc and special effects. Hey, as long as the basic plot structure and CGI are the same, the average dumbass moviegoer won’t know the difference, right? In both movies, the protagonist is working a dead-end job that he hates, and wishes there was more to life. Then, each protagonist is confronted by a beautiful woman who tells him he has a special gift. Next, each protagonist meets the black leader of a mysterious group of individuals with strange powers, and is convinced to join the group. Later, each protagonist trains hard and unlocks his hidden potential. Finally, a bunch of unintelligible bullshit goes down, and the protagonist is forced to use what he knows to save the day. OK, so I realize that this kind of story has been happening since long before The Matrix was ever made. However, the frustrating thing is that, essentially, both movies are identical, down to the slow-mo, bullet-time special effects.
The Matrix worked because it offered a believable (at least in a sci-fi setting) explanation for why one guy could quickly learn martial arts, become an expert marksman, and kick ass while bending the laws of physics. Wanted fails because it does none of those things. It offers a limp-dick explanation for why these people have superpowers, but then the film realizes the idea is retarded and quickly sweeps it under the rug. Clearly, they wanted a bunch of cool shit on screen, and felt compelled to offer a half-assed reason for it, despite that reason making absolutely no sense whatsoever. The reason, of course, is that they have more adrenaline than the average person. That extra adrenaline allows them to leap across huge chasms, slow down time, and quickly learn how to fight, bend bullets through the air all while — what the fuck, bend a bullet’s trajectory? Fuck you, Hollywood! It’s a movie crammed full of cool shit, if it had been written by a group of sixth grade boys.
There’s other stuff that pissed me off, too. First, the lead character is played by James McAvoy, who has the rubberiest mouth since Jim Carrey. He is believable as the corporate drone who hates his life. But he is absurd as the badass who wipes out a group of highly trained, professional assassins, after he has only had about one week of training. Oh, but his father was the best killer of all time! Yeah, I’m sure that shit is genetic. McAvoy could easily carry out the role of the nerdy guy, but when they need a badass for the screen, he comes across as laughably inadequate. The fact that the movie tries to convince us that he really is awesome, makes it all the worse. Second, the movie offers up another half-assed explanation around the mid-point of the running time. The people they kill are chosen by a magic loom that weaves thread in binary code. Yeah, it’s all right, you can go ahead and read that sentence again. No, I’m not joking. That was actually in the goddamn movie. I don’t really feel the need to go into why I think that was a stupid idea (because I’m sure any sane person would agree with me here), but I just thought I’d mention it. Third, the protagonist has no problem killing people just because a magic loom said so. There was no internal struggle whatsoever with the main character’s humanity. He had no qualms with wiping out apparently innocent people. All this did was make a 2-D, stereotyped hero character all the more cliche.
Fourth…. I’m sure there’s something else I could mention, but this is where I fell asleep for about 20 minutes or so. Finally, this movie is just incredibly fucking bad. It tries really, really hard to be cool, but fails every step of the way. Wanted reminds me of that kid everyone knew in high school who went around telling you he was a badass, and did outrageous stuff that made him look more like a jackass than anything else. In every scene, every slo-mo sequence, every “outrageous/quirky/ironic” bit, you can tell that the cast and crew are screaming, “We are awesome, this is awesome, you should be thinking this part right here is awesome!” When stuff comes across as deliberately trying to be cool, it usually ends up being lame. When things flow naturally and look effortless, then it actually becomes cool.
Wanted tries hard to be awesome, but underneath the glossy, multi-million dollar finish, it’s a huge steaming turd in the vein of anything produced by Michael Bay, Uwe Boll, or Paul W. S. Anderson. I’m not sure when Hollywood is going to start allowing original ideas to be filmed instead of doing remakes all the time, but I really hope it happens soon. The Matrix was a great film, and certainly one of the new classics, at least in the action genre. Unfortunately, we didn’t need another cookie-cutter remake, which is exactly what Wanted is. Oh well, at least Angelina Jolie looked hot.