Wanted (is sadly wanting)
Timur Bekmambetov is a good filmmaker. His latest film, Wanted, is a fun movie in a popcorn munching, rollercoaster ride sort of way. Angelina Jolie is quite bearable and James McAvoy is excellent in the role of the sub-standard-Peter-Parkeresque sad sack who discovers he has superhuman abilities as a gun slinger extraordinaire. What the film Wanted is badly wanting, is a better telling of the super hero story.
In most ways this is a typical super hero story. Shlub has crummy life, Shlub finds out he has super powers. Shlub goes through a montage sequence to indicate the intense training as he learns to use his newfound powers. Shlub finds out that having power is not as easy as it seems due to the ironies of life and conflicting interests tugging at his heart. Shlub… you get the idea; a tried and true formula of the super hero genre. Unfortunately this retelling offers little in the way of breaking new ground or imagination. I did not read the Mark Millar graphic novel that this is taken from so I cannot say if it is his fault or if it fell apart in adaptation. But the film doesn’t rise to any new standard in storytelling.
An underlying (but often overlooked) theme to super hero stories is that we are spirit-souls stuck here in the material world as mere mortals because we tend to be God envious. We wanted to be God, but only God can be God. Consequently we play out our God envy tendencies in a virtual world created just for us. Sometimes we play the part of good guy trying to be God like through force and moral superiority; and sometimes we play the part of a bad guy trying to be God like through force and immoral superiority. The whole time he is here the mere mortal is thinking, “If I could just get some of my divine abilities back, everything would be all right.” But of course life in a virtual reality will never be all right. As we see in most super hero stories, it is never easy here, no matter what powers you acquire.
The super hero genre is an old and revered genre. From the Vedic perspective it goes all the way back to the original Vedas, with descriptions of demi-gods and demons duking it out for universal supremacy. In the Mahabharata we have the all important story of super hero brothers separated at birth who become enemies; Arjuna and Karana. In that story Karana is born with superpowers but is disenfranchised socially unlike Arjuna who is royalty. When Arjuna’s evil cousin gives Karana a title and office, he becomes dedicated to supporting the cause of unfairness and injustice (in spite of the fact that he was deeply virtuous.) The entire Mahabharata is a great study on the ironies of life and conflicting interests that make life a challenge even for the preternaturally endowed.
In the work-a-day material world, Maya (the influencing agent of materialism) has a similar trick to entangle the disenfranchised even more deeply into the binding influence of karma (karma is any activity which perpetuates the cycle of birth and death.) You see she (Maya) doesn’t want everybody to lose hope. She especially doesn’t want the potentially powerful or influential to lose hope. Because, when people lose hope they tend to find religion or worse (for her) they become spiritual. The last thing Maya wants is for intelligent or charismatic people to become spiritual. The risk is they will raise their consciousness and then rise up against her, inspiring others to do the same.
So, (according to the tenets of yoga psychology) Maya picks out certain shlubs amongst us and gives them the semblance of power and control. This stands out as an inspiration for those who were at risk of losing hope. They can then daydream, gee if only I… and thus, inspired to work even harder in the service of matter, we remain further entangled.
The most interesting part of this whole maneuver is the way bad writing almost always plays into the interest of Ms. Maya. Bad writing is not bad because the subject matter is tawdry, or immoral. Bad writing is bad because instead of waking us up and giving us pause to consider that there is more to life than meets the eye; it reinforces all the worst tendencies that we have, like lack of imagination.
It is lack of imagination that makes us God envious rather than servants of spirit. Without imagination we are trapped in the claustrophobic cubicles of our mind. Trapped in the safety of habitual thinking we have no need to consider an alternative to this experience of life. And unfortunately a story like the one in the film Wanted (no matter how well shot and edited) does nothing to lift us out of the poverty of conditioned consciousness.