Wanted (2008 film)
|Directed by||Timur Bekmambetov|
|Produced by||Marc Platt
|Screenplay by||Chris Morgan
by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Editing by||David Brenner|
Top Cow Productions
Bazelevs Film Company
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||110 minutes|
Wanted is a 2008 Russian-American action thriller film, very loosely based on the comic book miniseries of the same name by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones. The film is written by Chris Morgan, Michael Brandt, and Derek Haas, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, and stars James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Terence Stamp, and Konstantin Khabensky. The storyline follows Wesley Gibson (McAvoy), a frustrated Account Manager who discovers that he is the son of a professional assassin and decides to join The Fraternity, a secret guild in which his father worked.
Production began in April 2007, with filming in the Czech Republic later to superimpose the sets on images of Chicago. Wanted was released on June 25, 2008 in the United Kingdom and two days later in the United States, to both critical and commercial success. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
In Chicago, Wesley Gibson is an American born in Moravia, who works at a dead-end desk job with an overbearing boss, takes anti-anxiety medication for panic attacks, and has a live-in girlfriend who cheats on him with his best friend Barry.
One night in the pharmacy, Wesley is told by a mysterious woman named Fox that his father was a recently murdered assassin, and the killer, Cross, is after him. Cross and Fox engage in a shoot-out followed by a car chase in the streets of Chicago. Wesley manages to escape and Fox has a shoot-out again with Cross, causing a car accident that knocks Wesley unconscious. Fox brings Wesley to the headquarters of The Fraternity, a thousand-year-old secret society of assassins. The group's current leader, Sloan, explains that Wesley's panic attacks are actually the untrained expression of a rare superhuman ability; when stressed, the drastically increased heart rate and adrenaline levels result in bursts of superhuman strength, speed, and reflexes—demonstrated when he successfully shoots the wings off of three flies. The Fraternity can teach him to control this ability, so Wesley can follow in his father's footsteps as an assassin, beginning by inheriting his fortune. Wesley is initially reluctant and returns to work, only to finally snap when discovering several million dollars in his bank account. He excoriates his boss in front of the entire office, and on his way out, smashes Barry in the face with a computer keyboard. Fox is waiting outside to take him back to the Fraternity headquarters—an unassuming textile mill.
Wesley is then subjected to brutal training; among other forms of combat, he learns to fire bullets to curve around objects (even using Fox as a subject in front of the target). Afterward, Wesley is shown the Loom of Fate, a loom that gives the names of the targets through binary code hidden in weaving errors of the fabric. Those the Loom identifies will apparently cause tragedy in the future; but only Sloan sees and interprets the names fate wishes to see dead. Wesley is initially reluctant about killing people. Then Fox reveals that in her childhood, a hired assassin burned her father alive in front of her—and said hitman was supposed to be killed by the Fraternity before that, but the assassin failed to pull the trigger. She now considers preventing such tragedy her mission and her loyalty to the Loom of Fate and The Fraternity.
After several routine missions and a chance meeting with Cross, in which Wesley is shot in the arm with a deliberately traceable bullet, Sloan grants Wesley's wish to avenge his father and sends him after Cross—but then secretly gives Fox a mission to kill Wesley, saying that his name had come up in the Loom as well. Analyzing the bullet that hit Wesley, it is discovered that the manufacturer was Pekwarsky, a bullet-maker living in eastern Moravia, the birthplace of the Fraternity. Wesley and Fox travel there and capture Pekwarsky, who arranges a meeting with Cross. Wesley faces Cross alone on a moving train. Fox steals a car and crashes it into the train, eventually causing a derailment. After Cross saves Wesley’s life by preventing him from falling into a ravine, Wesley fatally shoots him. Before dying, Cross reveals that he is Wesley's real father. Fox confirms this, and explains that Wesley was recruited because he was the only person that Cross would not kill. Fox then reveals the kill order on Wesley and raises her gun, but Wesley escapes by shooting out the glass underneath him and plunging into the river below with Cross's body.
Wesley is retrieved by Pekwarsky, who takes him to his father's apartment, located across the street from Wesley's old home. Pekwarsky explains that Sloan started manufacturing targets for profit after discovering that he was targeted by the Loom of Fate, and did not tell the Fraternity members that they were now nothing more than paid killers. The gang hang some of their friends in order to get to him. Cross discovered the truth and went rogue, and started killing Fraternity members to keep them away from his son. Pekwarsky departs, stating that Wesley's father wished him a life free of violence. Wesley, however, decides to take out Sloan after discovering a secret room containing all of his father's weapons and maps.
An enraged Wesley assaults the Fraternity's textile mill-fortress and battles his way through it, killing nearly every Fraternity member in the process. Upon entering Sloan's office, he reveals Sloan's deception to the master assassins present in the room. Sloan reveals that all of their names had come up in the weaving, and that he had merely acted to protect them. Were they to follow the code, every one of them should kill themselves on the spot. Fox, who believes in the code more than anyone due to her own experience, turns on her fellow assassins, and curves a bullet that kills every Fraternity member in the room, including herself, but not before she throws her gun to Wesley to distract him from trying to save her. During all this, the Loom of Fate is destroyed, and Sloan manages to escape.
Wesley, penniless once again, is left aimless. A man is then seen at a computer, much like Wesley at the beginning of the film. Sloan appears and points a gun at the back of the man's head. At that moment, the man turns around and is revealed to be a decoy. Sloan is then killed by Wesley using a long-distance bullet. Similar to the comic book miniseries, the film ends with Wesley stating his accomplishments, then breaking the fourth wall by asking the audience "What the fuck have you done lately?".
- James McAvoy as Wesley Allan Gibson, a meek 24-year-old who works in a cubicle, but learns he is heir to a legacy of assassins.
- Morgan Freeman as Sloan, leader of the Fraternity, and assassin partner of Wesley Gibson's deceased "father".
- Angelina Jolie as Fox, an accomplished member of the Fraternity who mentors Gibson.
- Thomas Kretschmann as Cross, a rogue assassin who has left the Fraternity and is the true biological father of Wesley.
- Common as Earl Malcolm Spellman a.k.a. "The Gunsmith", a professional gunman who trains others to use weapons.
- Konstantin Khabensky as The Exterminator, an expert in explosives who makes bombs and attaches them to rats. One of Wesley's only friends in the Fraternity.
- Marc Warren as The Repairman, an assassin who says he "breaks bad habits" by violently beating people. Trains Wesley in hand-to-hand combat and endurance.
- Dato Bakhtadze as The Butcher, a master of knife work to the extent that he can block bullets. Trains Wesley in knife fighting.
- Terence Stamp as Pekwarsky, a master in the science of killing. Pekwarsky operates as a rogue agent outside of The Fraternity. He is also a craftsman who is able to build bullets both untraceable and capable of traversing long distances. One of Cross's compatriots.
- David O'Hara as Mr. X, said to be the greatest assassin, and believed to be Wesley's father. His murder is the catalyst for Wesley's introduction into the Fraternity. He is the first Fraternity member to die onscreen.
- Chris Pratt as Barry, Gibson's co-worker and best friend, who is having an affair with Gibson's girlfriend. His saying "You're the man!" to Wesley becomes a running gag throughout the film.
- Kristen Hager as Cathy, Gibson's unfaithful and bickering girlfriend.
- Sophiya Haque as Puja
- Lorna Scott as Janice, Gibson's overbearing boss.
The comic book miniseries Wanted by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones first attracted the attention of Universal Pictures executive Jeff Kirschenbaum, a comic book fan who sought a film adaptation that would be considered a "hard-R" and encouraged the studio to pick up the rights to the miniseries. By 2004, producer Marc Platt set up development of the film adaptation. In December 2005, Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov was attached to helm the project as his first English-language film, with the script being written by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt. Millar did not like the first draft of the script. He explained:
I wanted the film to basically be the opposite of the Spider-Man movie, the idea of someone getting powers and realizing they can do what they want, then choosing the dark path. The [script] I read was just too tame. It just seemed a little bit Americanized. But Timur came in with his Eastern European madness, and he really made it nasty. He went closer to the spirit of the book.
Director Timur Bekmambetov said that the film would keep the same characters from the miniseries (which ultimately, did not happen) though the director would take liberty in adapting the comic book's world. In July 2006, screenwriter Chris Morgan was hired to revise the third act of the Wanted script written by Haas and Brandt. Haas and Brandt returned to polish the character of Wesley Gibson, which they had established in their first draft.
Wanted co-creator Mark Millar saw previsualized footage for the film and said the footage had raised his expectations for the film adaptation. Millar described the first half of the film as being close to the graphic novel, and also said that the film's ending was similar, though it was relocated elsewhere from the setting in the graphic novel. The superhero costumes in the series were also removed, with the exception of the leather attire worn by Wesley Gibson and Fox. Coincidentally, this had been Millar's intent when writing the graphic novel, although he and artist J. G. Jones had forgotten to. "I wanted them to have those powers and then just wear those costumes for the initiation, but just for one panel. And then I forgot." he said. Millar also stated he would have liked to keep the supervillain mythos that dictates the original comic in the film. Millar was favorable to most changes in the storyline, including the story arc of the Fates issuing death orders in line with the series' original theme of predestination. Angelina Jolie asked for Fox to get killed, considering that "If she was to find out she had killed people unjustly and was a part of something that wasn't fair, then she should take her own life."
James McAvoy, who had screen-tested for the role early in 2006, was initially rejected because the studio was seeking an actor with conventional Hollywood leading-man looks and physique. McAvoy was later recalled, being considered the "runt of the litter" of those who tested. According to McAvoy, "They [ultimately] wanted someone geeky." McAvoy was cast in the role in October 2006. The Scottish actor, who portrays an American in the film, worked out to improve his physique for the film's action scenes, and suffered several injuries during shooting, including a twisted ankle and an injured knee.
Angelina Jolie was cast in March 2007 after screenwriter Dean Georgaris rewrote the screenplay to tailor the role for her. Mark Millar became much more enthusiastic about the project after learning that Jolie had accepted the role of Fox, saying "the only way they could have got a bigger star to play this role is if they'd hired Tom Cruise in drag." Jolie decided to make Fox seem "distant and unattainable" by having her silent in many scenes. She mentioned Clint Eastwood, who had recently directed her in the film Changeling, as a possible influence for this aspect of her performance.
Common became interested in the role due to both the script and the prospect of working with actors McAvoy, Jolie, and Morgan Freeman. Common learned a great deal about firearms as preparation for the role, but said he is not a strong supporter of guns in real life. Konstantin Khabensky, who starred in Bekmambetov's Night Watch, was cast so the director would have a familiar face around. British television veteran Marc Warren agreed to work in the film because he always wanted to be in a Hollywood blockbuster. Thomas Kretschmann originally intended to pick up the comic series after being cast, but Bekmambetov convinced him not to. He practiced a lot of gun training to "look good and I look like I know what I’m doing". Kristen Hager originally auditioned for Fox, but accepted the role of Cathy, considering it "fun to play".
Location plate shooting took place in Chicago in April 2007. Several chase scenes, including one with a low flying helicopter, were shot in Chicago over two days, on Wacker Drive along the Chicago River, between Columbus Drive and LaSalle Street. The opening scene was filmed using the Carbide & Carbon Building. Production moved to the Czech Republic later in May, scheduled for 12 weeks of shooting. Using a former sugar factory in Prague, production designer John Myhre constructed a large textile factory as part of an industrial world, the setting of a mythological environment in which looms create fabrics that weavers interpret as assassination orders. Afterward, filming moved to Budapest, then returned to Chicago in August. The film originally had both an alternate opening and an alternate ending. The alternate opening, a flashback to ancient times describing the history of the Fraternity and the Loom of Fate, is available on the special edition DVD and Blu-ray.
Eight visual effects companies worked on the film, with the majority of work being done by Bekmambetov's company Bazelevs. Cars of both Chicago 'L' and European Pendolino trains were built, and were combined with computer-generated models of said trains in the action scenes. Some of the action scenes had the actors practicing free running and parkour.
Wanted was initially set to be released in cinemas on March 28, 2008, but in December 2007, Universal announced it would be moving the release date later to June 27, 2008. Previews started in the UK on June 25. It was also the opening night film for the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19. Wanted debuted in 3,185 theaters and earned $50,927,085 in its opening weekend, placing it at second place after WALL-E. Internationally, the film grossed $33 million on its opening weekend, breaking records in Russia and South Korea. Wanted grossed $341,433,252, of which $134,508,551 was from North America and $206,924,701 elsewhere.
Given the Russian origin of the director, Universal released a specially localized version in Russia. The literary translation of the English dialog was written by the writer Sergey Lukyanenko. Several texts appearing on the screen and important for the plot were translated using CGI, without using subtitles or a voice-over translation. Several famous Russian actors, most of which were also in Bekmambetov's Night Watch and Day Watch, dubbed the main characters, and Konstantin Khabensky dubbed himself as the Exterminator. James McAvoy also provided some words in Russian for Wesley Gibson. Danny Elfman's song "The Little Things" received a version in Russian, performed by Elfman himself, and Bekmambetov also directed a music video for the band Delta as part of a viral marketing campaign in Russia.
Wanted was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 2, 2008 in the U.S. Two versions were released including a single disc DVD and a two-disc edition of both the DVD and Blu-ray. A collectible two-disc gift-set DVD also included a photobook of the Assassins, collectible postcards and a lenticular film cel in an acrylic frame. The DVD debuted at second place on the charts (behind The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), and generated over $65 million in revenue by February 2009. The Blu-ray debuted at first place on the charts.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 72% based on reviews from 193 critics, with a rating average of 6.5 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that "Wanted is a fast-paced, crackling thrill ride tailor-made for the Summer audience." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 0—100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 64 based on 38 reviews.
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly encapsulated many critics' views, saying "Wanted is kind of unintelligible and idiotic. Also kind of nasty and brutish. And also undeniably kind of fun..." Likewise, Tom Long of The Detroit News said, "Wanted may be the most absolutely stone bonkers, crazy-good movie of the century. Or it may be a gargantuan piece of trash. Chances are it's a combination of the two. But man, does it rock." Claudia Puig of USA Today found the "thrilling stunts and hyperkinetic action scenes [to be] the undisputed stars of this surprisingly entertaining film." Conversely, John Rosenblatt of The Austin Chronicle denounced those same attributes, saying, "If Maxim magazine ever decides to branch out into filmmaking, Wanted is just the kind of ear-throttling nonsense it's bound to produce," and David Fear of Time Out New York called it "the cinematic equivalent of an energy drink. The film keeps artificially pumping your adrenal glands with mindless, malnutritional sensations, only to leave you crampy and cranky minutes later. ...[T]his exercise in ultraviolence then insults us by having a beaten, bloodied McAvoy inform viewers that he used to be a loser 'just like all of you.'" Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, one of few mainstream critics to have read the comic-book miniseries, said the film compared poorly with the source material. Noting that the hero in the comic goes even further, "breaking the fourth wall and positioning himself so that he's 'prison-raping' and taunting the reader for having liked the series," Lovece found that, "While Millar may have contempt for his readers—and, by extension, the medium in which he works—at least he has his own vision, and gets it across with style and wit" that the movie lacked. Roger Ebert of Ebert & Roeper said "Wanted slams the pedal to the metal and never slows down. Here’s an action picture that’s exhausting in its relentless violence and its ingenuity in inventing new ways to attack, defend, ambush and annihilate," while Richard Roeper said, "It’s made for fans of films that really just want to see some great visuals, some amazing sequences and some terrific performances."
In the comics press, Erik Amaya of Comic Book Resources said, "The film's biggest faults lie in how far it strays from the source," and that, "If you've ever seen any movie about leather-clad assassins, you already know how this film plays out. The speed and skill of the movie-making balance out those faults, however." Tom McLean of Newsarama noted that while the story deviated strongly from the source, the movie "stands out as a highly entertaining action film that preserves the comic's core premise and cheeky attitude while taking the story into very different but still satisfying territory."
Among European critics, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said, "It looks as if it has been written by a committee of 13-year-old boys for whom penetrative sex is still only a rumour, and the resulting movie plays like a party political broadcast on behalf of the misogynist party," concluding, "In an ideal world, the title would have the word 'Not' tacked on to the front." Kim Newman, writing in Empire, praised Bekmambetov as "the most exciting action-oriented emigré since John Woo," and commented that the film's gruesome violence "hint[s] at the comic's uncomfortable suggestion that escapism is merely a licence to become monstrous."
Wanted won the Empire Award for Best Sci-Fi / Superhero Movie of 2008. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt); the Critics Choice Award for Best Action Movie, the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, three MTV Movie Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble.
The film score has been released on June 24, 2008 in the North America and Canada by Lakeshore Records.
A video game titled Wanted: Weapons of Fate was released on March 24, 2009 with mixed reviews. Developed by GRIN and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360, it is not an adaption of the movie, but a follow-up, with its plot beginning five hours after the film ended.
Even before the film's release, Mark Millar announced director Timur Bekmambetov was planning a sequel, though Millar denied that he would write a sequel to the comic book. He was instead creating a story along with the producers. In November 2008, screenwriter Chris Morgan was penning a screenplay to follow the first film, but due to "excessive workload", on April 2009 Morgan left the primary writing to Evan Spiliotopoulos. Terence Stamp described Pekwarsky as "something that’s written for a sequel", and Common expressed interest in a prequel, considering that both the Gunsmith and Fox deserved more exposition. On June 2009, Bekmambetov said pre-production for Wanted 2 was about to get started, with filming scheduled to begin in late fall or winter. The film will have a reported budget of $150 million and be shot in the United States, India and Russia. He also added that some of the characters would resurrect, particularly Fox and The Exterminator. At the San Diego Comic-Con during the same month, Mark Millar stated the script would follow the comic's idea of an international guild of assassins. In February 2010 it was reported that Angelina Jolie had pulled out of the sequel. Initial rumors stated this caused Universal to shut the project down, but the studio denied it. Millar said the script will be rewritten to remove Fox's return, so production can start in 2010 for a late 2011 release. In a 2011 Q&A producer Jim Lemley said that "Wanted 2 sounds like it will not happen any time soon if at all". That same year, James McAvoy declared on the sequel that "I think the studio is keen to make it, and we really want to make it, but we want to make it if it’s right and when it’s right, and that might not be ever." McAvoy also expressed interest in a sequel focusing on another character other than Wesley. In September 2011, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, writers of Wanted, were signed to write the sequel. Haas commented "Wanted 2 is going to take off right after the events that just happened; it'll pick up Wesley a few years later and go back in for another round." He added the sequel will be "Fox-less and loom-less."  In October 2012 screenwriter Derek Haas confirmed he was working on a script and there would be a new female protagonist, he stated, "The only thing I can tell you is that Wesley is now, four years later, recruiting a young woman who is in his situation in the first movie. She's got a shitty life. He's sort of in the Fox role. This new girl is brought into the world." In March 2013, McAvoy declared that since "I had a blast making the first Wanted", he would make a sequel regardless of the quality of the script, but acknowledged that "the amount of years that have gone between the last one and if the next one ever gets made suggests to me that they’re not finding it very easy to come up with a story that they’re passionate about, so we’ll have to wait and see."
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- Tilly, Chris (April 14, 2011). "Exclusive: James McAvoy Talks Wanted 2". IGN. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- "Wanted 2 Moving Forward Again?". Empireonline.com. September 28, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
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