DVD Review - 'Wanted' 2-Disc Special Edition

As comic book fans around the world know all too well, the cinematic version of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ Wanted strayed in a number of ways from the source material.

That doesn’t mean Wanted is a bad movie. Hardly. And the main reason for that is the film's secret weapon (if you'll pardon the pun) - director Timur Bekmambetov.

This last decade Bekmambetov has become one of the most cutting edge, influential directors of horror, fantasy, and just plain innovative filmmaking thanks in large part to his last two films, Night Watch (2004) and it’s sequel, Day Watch (2006).

His style takes the cinematic bag of tricks derived primarily derived from the Wachowski Brothers and adds a strong influence of Russian/Eastern European (and Eastern European influenced) works by the likes of the Brothers Quay and Svankmayer. Bekmambetov’s worldview is packed with incredible rot and decay as well as pointless, complicated machinery. He loves secret societies populated by super- or mystically-empowered beings quietly pulling the strings of a world of puppets. All his films involve a protagonist who pierces the veils hiding these Illuminati, and they must suffer dire consequences for this knowledge.

Such is the case with young Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), who never knew he was the son of the world’s greatest assassin. His father was the #1 hitman of an organization called The Fraternity. Their mission is to kill one in order to save thousands, maybe millions. Thing is, pops abandoned the poor boy while he was still in swaddling clothes. Instead of growing up to be a stone cold killer who can bend bullet trajectories to his will, he’s a total wimp who is the perpetual doormat of his donut-inhaling boss, live-in girlfriend, and “best friend.”

The Fraternity has to do something about this, particularly as their top gun has just had his head turned into street burger. If young Wesley is to be the next #1 with a lot of bullets, he must be trained. That training is going to bring him to the edge of not just his sanity, but his very life.

So far, so good. That’s pretty much on target with how Millar and Jones saw things. This is also the launch point from which Bekmambetov puts his own indelible stamp.

The changes range from inspired to "what were they thinking?" On the positive was the casting if Morgan Freeman as Fraternity leader Sloan, James Warren as The Repairman, and Common as the Gunsmith. As to what were they thinking, Halle Berry or Jada Pinkett Smith would have been more logical choices for Fox (not to mention, closer to the comic version). Also, James McAvoy’s interpretation of lead character Wesley stretches credibility to its absolute extreme.

On the other hand, Bekmambetov’s SFX can be truly eye-popping. Even though it’s toned down here, particularly when compared to Night Watch, the film has its moments. For instance, his little message when he gives a keyboard sandwich is priceless. Wesley’s opening assault on the Fraternity HQ would make John Woo take notice. Sloan’s library carries the weight of a millennium of arcane knowledge. It’s eye candy like this that truly makes the film worth while.

The extra content in this collection is better than most. The extras take up the entire second disk in this collection.

Yes, it includes the now-expected "making of" documentaries as well as interviews with cast and crew members. Surprisingly, there are very few deleted/extended scenes. While the documentaries don’t quite top the amount or the quality of what Guillermo del Toro supplied on his Hellboy 2 collection this year, they are still well above the usual rote material provided in most DVDs. In fact, it makes a star out of Millar, whose recollections of how tales told to him as a child became the seeds for what turned into Wanted.

Actually, the most interesting section is what’s called a “motion comic.” Basically the producers took frames from the original comic, animated some of it, and then had voice artists provide dialogue over them. This motion comic clearly demonstrates how radically different the movie is from the original work.

The extra content concludes with a preview of the upcoming Wanted video game and a rock video based on a song provided by Danny Elfman. Hate to say it, but the music has to be some of the lamest and most plodding rock Elfman has written, going all the way back to his days in Oingo Boingo.

Still, if you are going to get this DVD, it should be for Bekmambetov’s radically original direction. While Wanted may not measure when compared to Night Watch it’s still stands pretty darn tall when measured against more pedestrian superhero stories, and this year’s overall crop of films in general.


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