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June 28, 2008

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Filipe

The comic Wanted is based ended in a similar note.

Jeremy Smith

Glenn, check out Ella Taylor's L.A. WEEKLY profile of Bekmambetov. He doesn't hold his audience in contempt; he just pities them.

"Bekmambetov, who's based in Moscow, talked to a lot of young Americans like Wesley about their situations and their dreams. 'Unfortunately,' he says, laughing, 'their imaginations are very bloody, very violent. They don't say so, because people never say what they think, but there's a lot of aggression and anger. But I like this generation, they’re very smart, and I'm very sorry that they are spending their lives in such predictable ways.'"

Good thing they have a shallow nihilist like Bekmambetov to tease out their sociopathic potential!

Dan Coyle

Interesting, how little Bekmambetov's film is like Mark Millar's comic (which was about a hidden society of super-villains) and yet, how much it is, deep down, exactly like it.

Dan Coyle

Oh, and Millar is a rat-faced pathological liar, and has recently worn out his welcome so much in superhero comics- though his non-superhero comics are just as insufferably smug- that I want to see this film, because every dollar given to a Millar movie is more of a chance to see less Millar comics.

Liz

Anyone who uses the word "chump" un-ironically should be killed. Seriously.

Charles Dera

The fascist impulse is buried right beneath the American skin. The fact that protagonists of these movies are all white is neither here not there, but I do wonder if these movies would get made if they had young black men as the leads, or a latino woman. Of course they wouldn't. I've always found it funny that white males, arguably (or not), the class of people who are offered the most freedom in this country, should also be the one constantly producing works of art (ahem) in which they whine and complain about how are they are nothing more than slaves. But I know this isn't about race, or class. Because nothing in America is about race or class, right?

Glenn Kenny

Great points, Charles. Boy, wait until you see "Hancock," about the ostensible taming of a black superhero that offers an interesting third-act rationalization for his need to be tamed.

And it's not just art, Charles. The blogosphere is choked with white men complaining of their oppression, with some rather amusing women (Kathryn Jean Lopez, Kathleen Parker, "Dr. Helen" Smith) cheering them on from the sidelines. (Actually Smith's not even on the sidelines.) Hilarious. Oh, how I and my kind suffer! (Until we're invited to join an elite fraternity of assassins, that is.)

colinr

Or 'elite fratenity of character assassins' in a critic's case! :)

Just going from the trailer, anyone who Googles their name to check how famous they are deserves to be slapped!

This just seems to be showing that we haven't moved on culturally since The Matrix, flattering the the 20-something audience of worker drones that they are actually 'the one' in a world created specifically to passify them.

There is both a good and a bad side to this - the good side is the films are tapping into a need for connection of belonging and working as a community for a common goal which they are not getting from a work-a-day exploited, demeaned untapped world.

The bad side is that even the Matrix turns into a world where everyone else who is not 'awake' is expendable by these characters who are now inhabting a higher plain of action from ordinary schlubs. To the films "you are either with us or with the terrorists" to quote a certain President! (I could have used the "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" line too!)

The Matrix sequels actually complicated this with a move to a kind of religious fundamentalism on the part of Zion and blind following of Morpheus, which might have been part of why the sequels failed at the box office (although there were fundamental filmmaking flaws in the sequels that likely contributed as well!)

It is a good example of a kind of celebrity culture - the individual flattery that Angelina Jolie or Carrie Anne Moss have come into your world to whisk YOU into a newer, better world. But once you get there it is important to be told that you were chosen because you were individually important to a cause rather than just being some random guy they thought might make a good assassin! Of course then the audience through their surrogate character takes on a regal distance from the world that they only just were a part of.

Dan

The comic book goes quite a bit farther than referring to the audience as "chumps," concluding instead with Wesley's triumphant declaration that he's taking us all from behind (Millar's metaphor, not mine) now that he and his cronies run the world. The comic book also directs more of Wesley's pent-up rage at bystanders, to the point that he executes his elderly neighbor for annoying him and brutalizes a group of young Latinos (insistently marked as such) who once mocked him on the way to work. This is to say that the film version tones down the pathological excesses of its post-literate source, but also that the comic makes the repulsiveness of Wesley's entitlement fantasy a central part of the story in a way that the film does not. I think that the comic might do a better job of showing that Wesley's new-found omnipotence can't save him from the psychological vicissitudes of the story's mythically-proportioned daddy-issues. Besides, the comic book shows a thinly veiled copy of the Joker feeding a helpless Adam West to a mechanical octopus, which has to be worth something.

Dan

While I'm not a big fan of the whole "I'm oppressed because I'm a white man" thing, one point I am extremely insistent on is that things are always more complicated than any sort of "ism" really cares to admit. An interesting exercise I once engaged in with a feminist was sitting down and asking "how did the 'traditional' suburban structure benefit the entire male gender?" She laid out the arguments and then I laid out how I, as a man, viewed the system as to my detriment. We actually came to the conclusion that it was more about class pressure and that ultimately the system benefited nobody except for upper-middle-class types. It was a good conversation.

Dan Coyle

Well, I saw it last night- I was serious about wanting no more Millar comics, even at the cost of Millar movies. It wasn't as loathsome or hateful as Millar's original comic, but it was far more stupid. I'd say the comic was better, but it's impossible to tease out WHAT Millar was trying to say in the comic, other than that superhero fans are losers and idiots and psychos in the making, but if that's so why in the four years since the book finished is he still taking their money?

Six weeks ago Wesley may have been a chump just like me, but the difference between us is at least I have an understanding of plot logic and story structure.

That said, there was some fun to be had, before the plot's illogic started making my heart go 400 beats per minute.

Dan

@Dan Coyle

A) You should really bite the bullet and take on the nickname "Eddie".

B) I am politely skeptical that the film could be any more stupid than the source material, especially since for it to be so the characters would have to consist entirely of actors with grevious brain damage.

Dan Coyle

Well, the rules of the comic's universe are better constructed- it's about super-villains, and they run rampant in secret. They run the underworld of crime, have either killed or imprisoned all the superheroes, and mindwipe the populace to cover it up. You gotta admit that makes slightly more sense than "this loom told me to kill this guy, and the loom never lies!"

Your "actors with grevious brain damage" comment is apt, however, since in the original Wanted comic Millar told artist J.G. Jones to draw Wesley and the Fox to look like Eminem and Halle Berry, respectively. Then Millar went around saying Eminem was attached to star when the rights got picked up, which got him in a bit of trouble when Eminem's reps said no such thing had ever occured, and he hadn't even read it.

Dan

I suppose I'm just inured to ridiculous premises, especially with THAT director at the helm. Honestly, I'll take a movie with a ridiculous, non-sensical premise over a straight adaptation. Besides, by all accounts it's apparently not nearly as snotty and high on itself as the source material. That's what annoyed me, the fact that Millar obviously thought he was being oh-so-clever and subversive, when really all "Wanted" was was a ripoff of one of DC's alternate Earths.

Dan Coyle

Actually, it had its origins in a rejected proposal called "Secret Society of Super-Villains" for DC, which is why there are so many DC anlogues in the original comic.

But yeah, the original comic is far more impressed with itself than it should be. Especially since, as I said, Millar went right from Wanted to doing more superhero comics for Marvel, where he's currently writing Fantastic Four, among other projects.

J

Was Jumper just quoting the end of Goodfellas?

Glenn Kenny

That's funny, J.

cadavra

I always thought the real reason LAST ACTION HERO tanked--though far from the only one, of course--was that its basic message was, "You're all idiots for watching movies like these."

christian

There's truth to what you say, Cadavra. I could feel the audience being confused at LAST ACTION HERO. Mess that it was, it still remains one of Arnie's smartest movies. Pity they threw out most of the original script.

Dan

Well, having seen "Wanted", honestly, I think part of the problem is just simply Bekmembetov isn't nearly as smart or profound as he thinks he is. He's a talented filmmaker, and he's even got some wit, but he's not much of a storyteller yet and I suspect he won't be until he either fails big and learns some humility, or grabs him by the ears and steers him into a true success. I mean, come on, I don't care how superpowered they are, if a bunch of highly trained killers tell you (SPOILER) that they get their orders from a fucking piece of cloth, that's probably the time even the most beaten-down of office drones starts asking themselves just what kind of whack-jobs he's fallen in with.

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