Wanted was a fun if brutal comic book written by Mark Millar and illustrated by J.G. Jones. It came out at a time when Millar was finding his own voice after doing a lot of work with Grant Morrison. It tells the story of a general loser, Wesley Gibson, who discovers that he is the son of a supervillain and that he has inherited his father’s power to, more or less, kill anybody with a gun. The story is set in a world which used to be like a comic book world, but the supervillains used some sort of magic spell to eliminate all the superheroes and produce the world in which we all live today. The supervillains are still in charge behind the scenes. The storyline follows Gibson’s initiation into the society of supervillains, a battle between rival groups of supervillains, and Gibson’s brief reunion with his father who is not dead after all.
This was turned into a movie which recently came out, which I just saw. The movie drops all the supervillain stuff, judging, probably correctly, that it was too comic-booky. In the movie Gibson’s father works for a society of assassins who have special powers, mainly the ability to make bullets curve rather than go straight. The movie doesn’t make any more sense than the comic book, and, being quite a bit tamer, is rather less interesting. It’s not terrible, but it’s not worth going out of your way to see it. The special effects are admittedly pretty good.
The only thing which the movie shares with the comic book is some character names, the beginning, and, oddly, the very end. It was interesting–in fact, probably the most interesting thing about the movie–to see that the ending was the same, but inverted. In the comic book Gibson starts out as a schmuck and becomes a vicious thug. At the end of the story he addresses the reader directly, essentially saying that you, the reader, are the schmuck that he used to be, and that he now runs the world. In the movie Gibson starts out as a schmuck and becomes somebody who kills people for good reasons. At the end of the movie he addresses the viewer directly, mentioning the things he has done and scoffing at the people who used to put him down, and saying “what have you done lately?”
So in both stories Gibson turns into a killer. In the comic book he is clearly a bad guy. He is taking his revenge on the world. In the movie he is presented as a good guy. But in fact we don’t actually see him doing anything good. We see him killing people and seeking vengeance for his father’s death. When he talks to the reader of the comic book, the message is that you may be a schmuck, and people like Gibson may be controlling your world, but at least you’re not evil. When he talks to the viewer of the movie, the message is that you should stop being a schmuck and start killing people. Frankly, I prefer a dystopian vision than one which glorifies assassination as an escape from the humdrum daily life.