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All-star cast in a familiar story.
James McAvoy Stars in "Wanted."
OPENING WEEKEND: $80,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $190,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

December 10th, 2007: A young man (James McAvoy) finds out his long lost father is an assassin. And when his father is murdered, the son is recruited into his father's old organization and trained by a man named Sloan (Morgan Freeman) to follow in his dad's footsteps.

What to Expect: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! Well just one Russian, Timur Bekmambetov, but he is still going to take America by storm. Most people on this side of the Atlantic really do not yet know about Bekmambetov, "The John Woo of the Far Eastern Europe," but they soon will. He first made headlines with his internationally acclaimed Night Watch franchise, which enjoyed huge success overseas and even won quite a few fans here in America. Now he is going to bring his octane style to the US in the film Wanted which is an adaptation of the graphic novel by Mark Millar of the same name. This pairing is a match made in heaven which will likely prove successful at the box office.

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The reason I feel this is such a good pairing is because Wanted is not a very original concept, having too many similarities to the Matrix to go unnoticed. It tells the story of a pathetic cube dweller, Wesley Gibson (aka Neo from Matrix). Gibson is unhappy with his life, his boss takes advantage of him and his girlfriend does not respect him. Then one day he is approached by the mysterious Fox (Trinity) who reveals to him that he actually possesses special powers that enable him to be a deadly assassin. Fox recruits him into the Fraternity which is an ancient guild of killers and with the help of its enigmatic leader Sloan (Morpheus) trains him to realize his destiny. Gibson soon learns that the world he knows is not what it appears to be, but actually a reality completely controlled by a shadowy group of super villains, a type of Matrix. These villains employ a group called the Fates who literally weave existence in a huge industrial complex. They then interpret their product and employ the Fraternity to assassinate those who stand to disrupt the balance of power. Gibson becomes sort of the anti Neo, by becoming the most powerful assassin using his power for his personal gains rather than the betterment of humanity.

Now, as you can see, this clearly not a very original concept, it is really the Matrix meets Dark City, and that is why Bekmambetov is so important to this project. He was first attached to it in 2005 and proved his value right away. Before he was chosen to helm, the film was on a slow ride to nowhere. Marc Platt had acquired the rights the year before and had hired Derek Haas and Michael Brandt to draft a script. The first draft did not capture the true spirit of the comic, and drew a lot of criticism from the comic's author. Millar complained that it was much too lame and "Americanized", making Gibson's character too much like your run of the mill superhero instead of the anti-hero he is supposed to be. This was right about the time that Bekmambetov joined the project. Millar was pleased with the choice because he felt that the director was not yet indoctrinated by Hollywood allowing him to bring an un-watered down version of Millar's vision. The director then worked with Chris Morgan to create a better version of the script, promising to stay true to the original story. They did make two major changes: First, the heroes and villains only wear their costumes during ceremonies instead of all the time like in the comic. Second, all the death orders come from the Fates, while in the comic, the villains in charge make the decisions. Millar was amicable to both changes because he felt not wearing costumes made the movie seem more serious and the Fates being in charge served to strengthen the comic's theme of predestination. The director now had his first major success, because he was able to create a good script that Millar liked and the studio did not object to, and he was not yet done. His presence also attracted some Hollywood heavyweights to the project including Angelina Jolie and Common who wanted to work with the promising director. He was pleased to oblige casting Common as the gunsmith, a familiar role for the rapper turned actor since he has had to handle a gun in every movie he has been in thus far. Jolie turned out much harder to cast since there was no large female part for her, but Berkmambetov really wanted to work with the actress. So he hired Dean Georgaris to create a third version of the script to include the female assassin Fox, for Jolie. With her officially on board, Berkmambetov was able to recruit Morgan Freeman to play Sloan, creating a truly all-star cast. However, he still had to hire someone to play the role of Gibson. To everyone's surprise, Berkmambetov did not get a big star for the part, instead going with little known James McAvoy. McAvoy has thus far had a pretty unimpressive career doing small parts. The big knock on him is that he tends to overact causing him to look very unnatural on camera. In fact, when he first auditioned for the part, he was outright rejected. Then after six months of failed casting, they finally came back to McAvoy mainly because of his geeky demeanor and unimpressive physique. Berkmambetov, the copycat that he is, wanted to tailor the character to be like Tobey Maguire in Spiderman, and McAvoy seemed to be the best fit. Finally, to show that he has not forgotten his roots, Berkmambetov gave his friend and star of Night Watch, Konstantin Khabensky, a small part as well. At this point the director was walking on air. He had the backing of a major Hollywood studio, a cast that included two Oscar winners, and a budget of sixty eight million dollars, which is fifteen times the amount he had when he made the first Nightwatch. Now all he had to do was film the movie, so he packed up his cast and headed off to Prague.

In Prague he purchased a huge Textile facility and converted it into a set for the movie. His cast settled in nicely and began to execute the extremely difficult action sequences that the script called for. Morgan Freeman and McAvoy even got ear infections while shooting a scene where they were submerged in cold water for too long. Despite the difficulties of the shooting, the set acquired a real homey feel with Angelina Jolie's many kids being on set. Berkmambetov was very accommodating to the kids going as far as allowing Jolie to shoot all her scenes in the morning, leaving the afternoons for her to spend time with her family. Meanwhile, Freeman grew quite attached to the children as well and even read them bed time stories before they went to sleep. Having the children on set worked out great, serving to diffuse many tense situations and bring the cast closer together. As a result, filming went very smoothly, and the final product reflected this harmony, beating most expectations. Millar was very impressed after receiving a private screening and said he felt, "it went well beyond his expectations." Meanwhile the studio execs were even happier believing that they had a blockbuster on their hands.

In Conclusion: This movie might be the big box office surprise of 2008. Although it features a very cliché plot that seems strikingly similar to the Matrix, it still has a terrific cast and eye-popping action. The technology available to movie makers today makes it very difficult to truly impress an audience with action, but I believe this movie will. Armed with an impressive trailer and very positive hype, the movie should play to sold out theaters. Although it will not appeal to older audiences, it will find plenty of internet generation fans. It should make plenty of money domestically, and become a huge success once the international receipts are counted. Although, I cannot endorse this type of movie, I am ashamed to say that I will be one of the millions who goes to see it in the theaters.

Similar Titles: Matrix, Dark City, Night Watch
June 27th, 2008 (wide)
December 2nd, 2008 (DVD)

Universal Pictures

Timur Bekmambetov

James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Common, Kristen Hager, Konstantin Khabensky, Terence Stamp

Total: 144 vote(s).

Action & Adventure

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality.

108 min




Wanted at AskMen.com

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