Unlike most books in our “Someone Make This into a Movie” series of articles, this 2005 graphic novel written by Mark Millar and published by Top Cow and Image has already been made into a movie . . .

The movie is also titled Wanted and stars James McAvoy (of Last King of Scotland and Atonement fame), Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov who scored a hit with his Night Watch movies directed it. U.S. release date is 27 June 2008.

Well-known comic book author Mark Millar says he was 34 years old when he wrote Wanted. Could have fooled us. Wanted often feels like it is written by a teenager instead. The tone is decidedly adolescent and Millar seems to be aware of this at times. At one point the main character jokingly describes himself as a “dick wad on an adolescent power-trip.” That sums it up about right. . .

The “hero” by the way is twenty-somethinger Wesley Gibson, a meek down-trodden office worker afflicted by hypochondria and self-doubt. Gibson is a cowardly pussy; there is no other way to describe him. His girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend but he does nothing about it. His African American lesbian boss intimidates him and on his way home from work each day some Hispanic street hoodlums taunt him about his “baggies and old-skool pumas.”

One day a hip-looking chick calling herself The Fox (that she is indeed as drawn by J.G. Jones) approaches him at a busy diner. The Fox tells Wesley to come with her to speak to “the Professor”. Uncharacteristically the easily intimidated Wesley refuses to go with her and to illustrate a point (namely that he really should go with her) she kills everyone in the diner. “You think The Fox is scared of a goddamn security camera?” she sneers. Expect this particular scene to be cut from the movie version. After all, Angelina Jolie plays The Fox (changing the comic book’s ethnicity in the process) and one somehow cannot imagine an A-list star such as Jolie senseless massacring innocent bystanders in an eating establishment in a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster.

"The movie version of Wanted seems to have stripped the graphic novel of all its fantasy and science fiction elements . . ."

Needless to say, Wesley goes with The Fox and discovers the truth about our world in the process: superheroes are actually all real. Or make that, were real. In 1986 all the supervillains banded together and in a long stretched-out battle lasting a year killed every single superhero there was. However it wasn’t enough for the supervillains to have simply massacred all the superheroes, but they decided to wipe all memory of them except for the comic books and occasional movies – using alien technology and supercomputers. Today the entire world is in fact run by the Fraternity, a secret organization consisting of all the victorious supervillains back then. (That supervillains in fact run the world would explain a lot, let’s be honest here.)

Of course governments, the cops, corporations, you name it are all being controlled by the Fraternity. Problem is that the Fraternity doesn’t seem that secret. Even your average beat cop seems to know of them. Wesley learns that his father who deserted him and his mother when he was still a baby was “The Killer”, a supervillain who also belonged to the Fraternity. Wesley’s dad was probably the best assassin that ever lived and it seems that Wesley inherited some of his dad’s abilities as well. Soon Wesley finds himself undergoing some training and initiation practices in which he brutally kills everyone who has ever wronged him. It is a looong list: “my old geography teacher, the girl next door, that guy across the street who kicked my ass for scratching his Mustang, the chick who said no when I asked her to a movie, that guy who set his dog on me, that shit-head in science class who ruined my best sweater with his stupid fountain refill pen . . .” And so on.

Wanted is Fight Club meets Hellboy with a lot of Natural Born Killers thrown into the mix. But the main “inspiration” behind Millar’s book is Fight Club: Wesley is Edward Norton’s “Narrator” and The Fox is his Tyler Durden who reveals the “truth” hiding behind the façade of everyday reality. Here the material spins off into an uncomfortable mix of social satire and revenge fantasy fulfillment. Who wouldn’t like to get back at everyone who has pissed them off? Problem is that the satire is half-baked and there is an absence of original ideas. One villain for instance is named “Shit-face” and is, yup, made of shit just like Kevin Smith’s “shit demon” in his 1999 movie, Dogma.

The book’s adolescent tone will also alienate some readers. Millar tries hard to throw in all kinds of “shocking” stuff such as the villains actually ending up as the heroes, gory violence, racist jokes and lots of profanity. (Expect all of this to land on the cutting floor when it comes to the movie version.) But none of it really either shocks or upsets because it all feels so phony Millar simply seems to be trying too hard, like a teenaged boy wearing black T-shirts and displaying Marilyn Manson posters on his walls while cranking heavy metal music hard all day long to annoy his parents. Another weakness is that the book spends a long time setting up a showdown with a bad ass villain named Mister Rictus, but the final climactic battle is anything but. Four pages at the most and Wesley simply shoots the guy come on!

On the plus side, the plot idea of the supervillains actually having been killed off by supervillains is a good one. Unfortunately judging from the trailers for Wanted this seems to be the first element thrown out by the movie. Wanted (the movie) seems to be stripped of all its fantasy and science fiction elements. There are no grotesque Hellboy-type monsters and the like. Rather the screenplay has turned the league of supervillains into the league of assassins, or something like that. Wanted is an action movie, and not the fantasy/superhero movie its source graphic novel is.

All of this is a pity. Director Timur Bekmambetov has a wild imagination and a fantastic visual sense some of which is on display in the trailers for Wanted. He is an obvious choice for director of an adaptation of the Wanted graphic novel. That is, if they bothered sticking to the graphic novel in the first place though. Stripped of the fantastical monsters and creatures found in Millar’s graphic novel, Wanted seems to be a bog-standard action flick rather than Hellboy III meets Pulp Fiction, which science fiction and comics fans would be interested in.

Still, we’re hopeful. McAvoy is an OK choice even though he’s Scottish and will probably have a tough time affecting an American accent. But he’s got the right nerd / hero balance to make a believable Wesley Gibson. Angelina Jolie is also inspired casting. However the describing the movie as an “action thriller” means that fans of Millar’s comic will be disappointed.


Wanted (Paperback)
by Mark Millar, J.G. Jones

192 pages
Publisher: Top Cow Productions/Image Comics (November 14, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1582404976
ISBN-13: 978-1582404974




blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).