Recently in another review I wrote, I mentioned that the film flew under my radar when it was in theaters. For some reason this year, I just haven't gotten out to the movie theater as much as I would have liked. Wanted was another flick I was dying to see, but it came and went, and I didn't really hear much about the highly anticipated film after the fact either. Perhaps I've just had my head buried in the sand this year, I don't know. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. What's important is that I had no idea what to expect from Wanted. I went into this Blu-ray with no expectations at all, but even so, it's not what I would have expected. Much of the script writing was lousy, the stunts and action scenes were some of the most blasphemous of their kind since The Transporter 2, and I couldn't believe how much of a nerd the supposed hero was early on in the film. Despite these criticisms, the film gets better as the runtime progresses, and in the end, it was actually a pretty satisfying experience.
Wesley Gibson isn't your normal everyday cubicle drone. No, he's actually much more of a chump than that. He goes to work and takes verbal assault after verbal assault from an idiot of a boss, sits across the way from what's supposedly a good friend that happens to be banging his girlfriend, and the worst part? He takes it day in, and day out. I'm not a confrontational person at all myself, but if I know my 'friend' is waxing my Ikea kitchen table with the back side of my girlfriend during his lunch break, things might just get a little crazy, you know? Not Wesley though! He's pretty much the worlds used up door mat.
Things change drastically for him when he's caught in the middle of an intense gun fight, and gets ganked out of his daily life to learn a new fate that awaits him.
He's introduced to a secret organization of assassins known as The Fraternity. They're the best killers in the world, and they sort of act like the guardians of the planet. A mystical loom, yes, a freakin' loom, spits out binary code through its weavings, giving The Fraternity names of those who are chosen by fate to be killed. Their creed is that if they kill one, they could save a thousand.
They may be the most brutal killers on the planet, but they're not untouchable. Wesley learns that his father was killed just recently, and that he's the only one that can avenge his father's death. Wesley will have to learn to become one of them. He's run through a gauntlet of beatings, hand to hand combat, knife training, and even firing pistols in a way that will make bullets curve around objects that stand in the way between him and his target.
When his training is completed, he's a new man. The little squeaky gerbil that we knew from the cubicle is now one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Close to acquiring the vengeance he's worked so hard for, Wesley finds out that everything he knows about The Fraternity is a lie, and that the ones he must go after are the very ones who taught him everything he knows. The world turned his back on him, as well as the only group of people he's ever learned to trust. Wesley may not have super powers, but he's as close to one as a human being could ever be just by using a small arsenal of guns.
The first half hour of the film or so, or perhaps even a little longer, I thought this movie was going to be a waste of an hour and fifty minutes. It definitely wasn't going good, and if the movie stayed on the course it was going, I was going to be one unhappy camper. Wesley (James McAvoy) was such a dork, that I never thought I'd warm up to him as a person, let alone an action star. The first major action scene was over the top and ridiculous, to the extent of the sillyness that you could find in the second Transporter film. I'm definitely not one of those people that needs everything they see on the screen to be realistic, but the entire film needs to support the unbelievable, not suspend reality just for the sake of some action. I wasn't seeing things gel very well in the first act of the film.
After sitting through the beginning though, there was a constant that pulled it out of the muck, and that was the film continually got better and better until a very satisfying finale. I forgot about the dorky Wesley I met at the beginning of the film, and I forgot about the absurdity of being able to make bullets curve around corners like a baseball. Although Wanted didn't start out making the real world and the 'secret assassins' world mix together very well, the film was able to bring it to life just in time for the some of the most intense scenes in the movie. The further Wesley got into it, the further we got into it. Seeing Angelina Jolie's naked behind helped a little, too! Basically, the movie did a great job of transforming everything from being incredibly lame, to becoming unrecognizable to what we were introduced to, and came out on top in the end as a product that was pretty bad ass.
I don't think Wanted was nearly as good as the hype, because really, this film had the potential to be as solid as a rock the entire way through. Instead, it was like watching your favorite football team stumble with stupid mistakes throughout the first quarter, or even the first half of the game, but somehow manages to pull off an impressive win at the end of the day. Once we got over that hurdle, the action scenes became quite impressive, especially near the end of the film. I'm actually looking forward to seeing McAvoy again as Wesley, and that's saying a lot considering how much I hated him at the beginning of the film. It's a film that everyone should see, but I think the response over how good it is will vary from person to person.
This is a 1080p AVC encode at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it's a pretty impressive looking disc most of the time. There's plenty of detail and sharpness (without edge enhancement) that can be seen throughout most of the film, although there is the occasional shot that seems to look 'alright' instead of 'amazing', due to a lack of definition and a touch of softness. This isn't due to DNR, because there was certainly no attempt at all to hide grain that morons at other studios consider to be 'dirty'. Thankfully, all the film grain is intact as it should be.
There's a contrast to this film that's not exactly blown out, but the whites are intentionally hotter than what would be considered the norm. This adds to the overall effect the director was trying to bring to the film as a graphic novel, and inky black levels compliment this style most of the time. Unfortunately, there are some shots here and there that leave a little more to be desired from the black levels though. Skin tones are ever usually accurate, but the actions scenes seem to make skin tones adopt a slightly warmer color scheme.
All in all, it's a very nice presentation from Universal. There isn't any dirt or specks to complain of, and there aren't any other ugly defects either. The only thing holding back this transfer, is the inconsistency, as minor as it may be, with the softer or less detailed looking shots, as well as the certain shots that don't give us as deep a black level as they should.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very impressive. The actions the scenes boom, and the entire film is brought to life with great directionality along with a boastful sound mix that doesn't drown anything out. This is probably going to wreak havoc amongst those that need something a little friendlier for a bedroom or apartment environment, because you'll need to adjust the audio to hear all the dialogue that's taking place in non-action scenes. It really doesn't get much better than this though. Universal did a great job with this one!
Also includes Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks, and English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Alternate Openning - This is a pretty cool scene, but if it were in the film itself, it would have ruined it. One of the major strengths this film has is its ability to start off weak, and continually build its way up to a strong finish. This alternate opening takes away a lot of the mystery and in the end, it's a good thing this was left on the cutting room floor.
Extended Scene - This is really only an extension of Wesley's early stages of training, but the extended version doesn't really add anything. I also find it hard to believe this was the only deleted material from the film. Where's the rest, Universal?
Cast and Characters - This is the first lengthy feature on the disc thus far, ringing in at about twenty minutes. It's basically the cast sitting down to tell us about the movie. It's cut together nicely with some action music and the occasional clip from the movie being used to make their points, but in the end, it's a feature that's not as important as it would have liked to be.
Stunts on the L Train - This is a much shorter featurette at two and a half minutes long, and it's unfortunate because there's actually some real behind the scenes stuff here. There's a pretty big scene in the film that involves an L train, and some of the stunts from that are here.
Special Effects - The Art of the Impossible - Another eight and a half minutes worth here, detailing how many of the action sequences were brought to life with on location special effects.
Groundbreaking Visual Effects - From Imagination to Execution - On location aren't the only special effects that were used however (duh), and this eight minute featurette details how CGI was used to wrap things up and make Wanted what it was in its final form.
The Origins of Wanted - Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life - In another eight minute featurette, we examine how faithfully the graphic novel was ported from page to film.
Through the Eyes of Visionary Director Timur Bekmambetov - Cast and crew, as well as Timur himself, sit down and talk about their thoughts and feelings about Timur and what it's like to see him bring his vision to life. He's touted by those who worked with him as being one hell of a visionary, and after seeing Wanted in its entirety, I can't really say I disagree! There are some truly breathtaking action sequences in the film!
Wanted - Motion Comics - This featurette takes a good chunk from one of the comics the film was based on, and puts it into motion with narration by none other than James McAvoy himself.
The Making of Wanted - The Game - The first thing to came to mind when I saw this featurette was, "There's a game based on this movie?" And second was, "Where the hell is the game footage?" It's nice to see how the developers piggy backed off of what they saw on set to make a close representation in the game, but to have been able to see what the product looked like would have put some decent closure on this ten minute featurette.
U-Control - I never really got a kick out of Universal's U-Control panel, but it's actually not bad this time around. You get quite a bit of behind the scenes footage when Picture in Picture is activated, and there's also on screen assassin profiles and motion comics. Also available through U-Control is Scene Explorer, which allows the viewer to see the film in storyboard form, behind the scenes footage, or through previsualization animatics crafted by a computer.
Also included, is a second disc that includes a digital copy of the film.
There is a BD Live feature that cannot be accessed until the discs retail release, but the back of the case mentions that you can watch the film over BD Live with a bunch of your friends. I'm never one to want to talk during a movie, especially one I've never seen before, so it's not a feature that's for me. Providing that it actually works well enough though, I think the idea for this is freakin' awesome. Could this be the beginning of movie parties without you or friends ever having to leave the house? Bravo Universal, this is an awesome idea, and if you guys want a tip, I'll suggest its best implementation - Halloween. Crank out some horror films with this feature, and people will most likely have horror movie cheese-a-thons using their headsets!
In the end, the special features are adequate, but there's nothing mind blowing here. Most of the features are fairly short, only scratching the surface of the production of a fairly unique film. Also disappointing, is the lack of a traditional commentary.
Wanted starts off kind of shaky, but ends up pulling off being a very satisfying film. I've seen a lot of hype for this film, and I still do now that this is hitting Blu-ray, and I don't think Wanted is nearly as good as a lot of people have made it out to be. As I said, this film had the opportunity to be perfect from beginning to end, but certain aspects of the production were a little sloppy. I'm just thankful the latter half of the film was effective enough to make me forget about the insecurities I felt early on. That all being said though, this is definitely a film I think everyone should see.
The picture quality for the most part is impressive, and the lossless audio track that was provided was nothing short of amazing. The special features unfortunately feel like they were thrown together pretty quickly. When it's all said and done, this is a release I recommend everyone gets out there and sees. It's one hell of a ride once the universe the film creates becomes more real to the audience, but it's not a film that everyone is going to jump up and down for and say, "Wow, I have to buy that!"