Friday, March 13, 2009

Wanted: Offensively Stupid

I am a huge movie fan. That is hardly a secret or a surprise to most people who know me. I am also very picky about my movies though, as a comics geek and an avid book reader, my pickiness is actually different than what might be expected. I do not rant and rave if a movie does not slavishly follow the source material. I do understand the difference between print material and a movie and realize that changes are mandatory. No, my pickiness stems from the expectations of a rationalist who loves the imagination. I expect the plot to work. I expect the internal reality to be consistent. I expect characters to display personality and I expect character actions to follow from those personalities. I don't think I'm asking too much, though it's hard to tell based on what passes for filmed entertainment most of the time.
I won't watch most of what is pawned off as comedy these days because I won't support the encouragement of stupidity. I avoid modern dramas like the plague because they are inevitably centered around some political or social issue that will cause me to twitch. I love a good sci-fi flick, but it is rather difficult to get Hollywood to be remotely respectful to that source material. You might think that a simple action movie would be safe. Good guy pummels bad guy, gets the girl, and saves the day. It's a simple formula and the internal rules are usually too easy for even a hack director to forget. You'd be surprised.
While there are many movies I won't watch, I do not generally find them to be offensive. They are what they are and don't claim to be anything else. I just finished watching the movie Wanted, however, and now I am offended.
Warning, if you have not seen this movie and are worried about spoilers, do not continue reading. There won't be many, but they'll be big.
The movie begins with an irritating, whining accountant. Not a big deal. It is fairly common that the One Who Is Meant For Great Things begins the story as something less than stellar. It turns out that this less than stellar individual is the son of one of the greatest assassins on the planet, a member of a secret "Fraternity" of assassins that stretches back a thousand years. They are the Warriors of Fate, making the world a better place through surgical pruning ...
... Except that they're not. The movie wasn't great before the big reveal, but it was something I could live with. Then we're told that these assassins take their orders from a "secret code" written - supposedly by fate itself - into the flaws of a massive weaving project that I suppose we are suppose to believe has been going on for a thousand years. The villain we are given is said to be a man who has broken with the code and only our hero can stop him.
So we have a secret society of assassins who take their orders from a rug and the villain is a villain because he stopped obeying the rug. Everyone with it so far?
Of course you know that the villains are actually inside the Fraternity and the "villain" our hero is being sent after is actually the good guy. Anyone who didn't see that one coming a mile away, please leave the room now. While predictable, I was actually hoping this would be a redeeming factor. It would turn out that the outcast had gone rogue because it dawned on him that killing people because a rug said so was just plain stupid and he was trying to bring things around to something that actually resembled a sensible plan.
(Every now and then I get my hopes up to high and it really hurts when I fall down.)
What actually happened was that the leader of the Fraternity (played enjoyably by Morgan Freeman) got a message from the rug that he himself was the next target and he decided that he didn't much care for this idea and started picking targets on his own rather than listening to the demands of a bunch of thread. The outcast was mad because Freeman had broken the code and our hero was suppose to return things to their state of slavishly following the dictates of an overgrown carpet.
Basically, we're supposed to be offended because Freeman's character didn't commit suicide when a rug told him to and we are apparently suppose to see it as noble or something when Angelina Jolie's character does commit suicide on the whims of the rug. I'm confused. Is blind obedience to a pile of cloth really something we should feel warm and fuzzy about?
The movie is based on the comic book mini-series of the same name by Mark Millar. I haven't read that particular series but I have read much of Millar's work and am usually a fan. He is something of a wizard at superhero deconstruction and is famous for writing comics with a more mature theme. His work on The Authority (DC) and virtually any title that begins with the word Ultimate (Marvel) is some of the best modern comics writing available. I certainly hope that the flaws in this movie didn't come from Millar's source material but I suppose I'll have to get my hands on a copy of the graphic novel to find out. I recommend you do the same. Go read Millar's works and avoid this movie if at all possible.

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