There've been a slew of comic book movies being released for some time now, and it's not too hard to see why. It's like Hollywood woke up one day and went, “Holy crap! These are movie storyboards lying right here! There's hardly any work left that we need a screenwriter for – let's fire all those smartass bitches!” Instead, they probably just get someone's cousin to work for minimum wage and patch up the thing after the parts of the source material that are deemed unpalatable have been lopped off. Of course, for some comics, nearly all of its core is jettisoned in the name of 'taste', leaving the guys who come up with the 'adapted screenplay' fumbling about in the dark and coming up with something that smacks of the output of a 4-year old with access to glue, silly string and a hunting knife. Easiest way to explain something like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Or Wanted, for that matter.
In the comic, Wesley Gibson is a pushover loser, stuck in a dead-end job and relationship and with a tendency to get walked all over by anybody he comes into contact with. That part's been kept intact, fair enough. He then gets scouted by an assassin organisation called the Fraternity, who tell him he's got dem killer genes in his body, on account of his daddy being an ultimate badass of sorts. Kid's got mad kill skills, in a nutshell. After a little deliberation, he gets the cojones to flip the bird to his spineless existence and start training to become the lethal weapon he was destined to be. So far, so similar. Now for the differences:
In the movie, the Fraternity is an organisation of well-meaning assassins, doing their dirty work at fate's bidding to keep the balance of the world in order. In the comic, they're a bunch of super-villains who work small-time schemes only because they've already killed off all the superheroes in the world and there's no huge obstacle left. Once Gibson (aka The Killer) becomes ready for field work (a process which involves killing off most of his tutors as well), he becomes a total sociopath and goes around assaulting, raping and killing anybody he feels like. There's even one scene where he walks into a police station and blows away all the blueshirts inside on a whim. Somehow, this comes across more like a cathartic experiment on the writer's part than any actual profound insight, but that may be just me.
I can sympathise with Hollywood in this regard, imagining them panic with “Gah! How do we get our audience to feel anything for this bastard?!” It's tough love, no doubt. So they nerf him into a guy who flails around a lot, looks somewhat pissed off, can occasionally bend bullet trajectories, has a conscience about innocent bystanders and has delusions about being one of the saviours of mankind. What happens when you change something that major is that the rest of the story doesn't dovetail neatly anymore and you have to make up bullshit about oracle looms and convoluted father-son relationships to justify all the silly shit you made up in the first place. Bad scene. By the time it totters to the finish line, it tries to tie up with a watered-down version of the comic's ending (which in itself was a bit of a cop-out) and inevitably falls flat.
Ok, seeing for granted that the story's for shit, let's see what else we have to write home about. Not the acting, for sure. McAvoy's got some manic-depressive trip going on, Jolie just pouts her way through the movie and Freeman does his knowledgeable old coot shtick for the most part. There are a couple of early action scenes that are completely OTT, and that's when the movie is strongest. I don't really mind Matthew Reilly-esque stuff like cars doing cartwheels and flips in the middle of chases when pains are taken to make it look cool. Bullet curving is also absent from the comic's story – I guess it was the cousin's brainwave. Not complaining, it's pretty slick too. If they'd concentrated on all this crowd-pleaser shit, they might have ended up with something like Shoot em Up meets Equilibrium, which is not a bad thing at all. Instead, they've turned out sub-par comixploitation which spends most its running time trying to explain why it looks like such a mess. If you don't want an ugly movie, stop choosing ugly source material and taking it to the salon. When will you fuckers learn?