Film: Hancock, Wanted, and the Granddaddy of Science Fiction

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So first off, my review of “Hancock” got posted this week, for your consumption and consideration. As people have pointed out to me, the movie’s characters are pretty steeped in mythology. While that may add some level of depth or interest for some people, this movie is still lousy, despite the fact that somebody on the film crew took a 100-level religion class.

You could argue that Robocop was a Christ-like figure, but that doesn’t mean “Robocop 3” won’t make you puke when you watch it.

If you want a GOOD story about immortals worshiped as gods throughout time by different cultures, and now viewed as superheroes, read the Eternals. Jack Kirby told the basic story of “Hancock” better as a comic book 30 years ago. For you literature nerds, Neil Gaiman did a particularly good revamp of the story last year, from which even more plot points in “Hancock” are echoed.

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For even more comic-book nerdiness, stay tuned after the regularly scheduled program, where I will be reviewing last week’s sleeper hit “Wanted.” The review never got posted to CM-Life.com, so I will post a jump to it at the end of this entry.
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In exciting film news, an original print of Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic “Metropolis” was found in a museum in Argentina.

The original film was 210 minutes long, and only showed in Lang’s native Germany for a short period of time, before being drastically cut for wider release.

There have been several “restorations” of the film, where lost footage was edited back in, and the film was remastered. Most notoriously, “Scarface” composer Giorgio Moroder released a restored version in 1984, which was the most complete visual version of the film, although the orchestral score was replaced with a synth-pop soundtrack written by Moroder and performed by those such as Queen and Adam Ant. It’s rather bizarre.

Before this week, the longest-known print of “Metropolis” in existence was 118 minutes. Adding such a huge amount of footage will likely make the film bloated and boring, but from a critical and historical viewpoint, could alter the plot, characters, or even entire themes in the film. Film historians collectively pooped when they heard the news.

None of this would matter a lick if “Metropolis” were not a hugely influential film. Basically any science fiction movie after it can be traced back to it, at least visually if not thematically. “Metropolis” is the archetypal film vision of the future. Everything from “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner,” to “The Island,” and “Batman Begins” can have parallels drawn to Lang’s film. Any fans of the videogame masterpiece “Bioshock” owe “Metropolis” a viewing, because from the city design, to the logo featuring the cityscape, the game’s city of Rapture is effectively Metropolis underwater.

So, I’m sure eventually we’ll get a fully-restored DVD with all the new footage. Remember, this is an original print from 1927 that has not been restored, or even taken out of storage in decades, so as sure as there’s legions of film geeks who want to see this, it will probably take several years to restore.

Any concerns, comments, questions and requests can be directed to canze1bj@cmich.edu, and the “Wanted” review can be viewed by the link below.

“Wanted” earns an unexpected comparison to last month’s
“Speed Racer” by being a visceral sensory experience unlike
any seen on film before, without delivering a memorable or
original story.
	Unlike “Speed Racer,” it’s best to tuck the kids in to bed
before going to see “Wanted.”  It is unapologetically R-rated,
and takes advantage of the freedom of the rating to bring a
creatively violent and exciting experience to theaters.
	Loosely based on the comic book of the same name, “Wanted”
follows Wesley (James McAvoy, “The Last King of Scotland”), an
apathetic office worker who is brought into an exotic criminal
underground by Fox (Angelina Jolie).
	Morgan Freeman appears as Sloan, the leader of The Fraternity
of Assassins.  Under his guidance, Wesley learns the skills of
the assassin trade from its best in order to kill the man who
murdered his father.
	Although the story is derivative of “Fight Club” and “The
Matrix,” the style of “Wanted” manages to be every bit as
innovative and exhilarating as those seminal movies.
	The actors all do an admirable job, particularly James
McAvoy, who is believable and likeable on his journey from
passive pencil-pusher to hardcore super-assassin.
	However the true star of the film is director Timur
Bekmambetov, making his English-language debut after making
the two most successful Russian movies ever, “Night Watch” and
“Day Watch.”  From those films Bekmambetov brings his dark
humor and innovative expressionist style of storytelling.
	Even foreign film buffs that have tracked down the director’s
previous work will see things in “Wanted” that they have never
seen before.  Bekmambetov asks filmgoers to just suspend their
disbelief enough to accept bullets flying in curved paths, and
then proceeds to blow their minds.
	The action in this film is deftly handled by Bekmambetov.  He
makes effective use of visual effects and some outstanding
sound design to experience what Wesley is feeling as he is
unwillingly thrown into a life of murder and mayhem.  Wesley’s
face goes bright red and pulsates as he is forced at gunpoint
to try shooting the wings of a trio of flies.
	The best part of the movie is how meaningful the action
feels.  Apart from the context the plot creates for the
gunplay and chase scenes, not a frame of film is wasted while
bullets are flying.  Every single bullet fired has a purpose,
compared to the average action flick where thousands are fired
and it is never shown where they end up.  Several important
bullets are even followed backwards through time after hitting
their target, to show where they originated from.
	Wasted film can be found when all guns are holstered,
however.  The first two acts drag, taking far too long to get
Wesley to begin his assassin training, and then the training
itself takes far too long in turn.  Jolie does her best acting
when she needs to express something silently with her face and
body motions.  Her dialogue delivery leaves much to be
desired, but thankfully there is not much of it.
	Anybody in the mood for a thrill-packed action flick won’t
leave “Wanted” in disappointment.    When the smoke cools off
the final gun barrel and the final bodies have fallen, it is a
satisfying video game-styled thrill ride with “whoa”-inspiring
action sequences on par with the original “Matrix.”  
The innovations in action sequences and amazing visual and
audio design breathe new life into the genre of R-rated action
movies in a way not seen since Keanu first donned his
trenchcoat nine years ago.  Expect to see more high-profile
work from Bekmambetov in coming years, as well as imitators of
his approach to filmmaking.

--Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude
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