by Latoya Peterson
For some strange reason, I’ve found myself in the multiplex more times in the last week than I have in the last couple months. I caught Wall-E and Wanted, and I am heading toward The Dark Knight this weekend. (Hancock is still being debated by my friends who fall into two camps – “Will Smith is hot” and “Wait for the DVD.”)
With that in mind, here’s my take on the two films I saw.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
We brought a four year old to Wall-E, and it was her first movie ever. However, unlike the two 24 year olds and 27 year old who were enraptured by every little bit in the movie, she was overwhelmed – and then bored. I am starting to think these animated kid movies are really for the adults that drag the kids out of the house to go see them.
Wall-E is charming and sweet. Pixar really did find a way to humanize this little robot and did so early in the movie. Before anyone else arrived on the scene, most of us in the theater had already fallen for Wall-E, who desperately wants to experience love, and his pet roach (who lives in a Twinkie). There are other great reviews of Wall-E on the internet, but I want to focus on my favorite – Jay Smooth’s:
“Wal-Mart killed all the poor people so they could replace them with robot labor and then sent Wall-E to bury the evidence!”
I love it. Overall, I highly recommend Wall-E, despite its tokenized representation of people of color and sizeist overtones. It’s all about the robots anyway.
Dear readers, I am going to say something I rarely ever have cause to say on this blog:
I take it all back.
I have never been so happy to not see a woman of color in a role in my life. They can’t blame us for this one!
I went into Wanted expecting an action flick to remember. The movie started off well – a tall, lean, sharply dressed South Asian woman is in the opening scenes. I remember thinking Whoa, bad ass – is she an assassin too? She was revealed to be a munitions expert. As she scrutinized a specially made bullet, a laser sight swept across the room conveniently landing on her bindi. Her head is blown to bits before she can finish her work.
The film gives us three female characters–lead antihero Wes (James McAvoy) begins the movie with both a nagging, cheating girlfriend (Kristen Hager) and a bitchy, always-eating, “comically obese” boss (Lorna Scott), both of whom he resents and immediately ditches when he finds out his other options, coming back only to insult and humiliate them further, in case the viewer missed out on the hatred of them the first time. For the majority of the film, however, the only female character is Wes’ assassin trainer, Fox (Angelina Jolie).
And though Jolie has her fair share of badass moves and I did get a little thrill out of her kicking her reluctant pupil’s ass, she really doesn’t shine here. Nothing about her character sets her apart as a heroine, rather than just another soldier who can also be used as bait sexually. [...]
So what we have is one of the film’s only moral and upright characters, and only strong female, turned from black to white, while the villain is turned from white to black. Not hard to see the racism there.
Not only does Wanted fail all possible Heroine Content tests for both racism and sexism, it’s just a bad movie, and it’s a rip-off. For the first twenty minutes you are watching Fight Club, only not as good, and then you start watching The Matrix, only not as a good.
J. Caleb Mozzocco, writing for his blog Everyday is Like Wednesday, wrote an excellent take down of the race issues in the Wanted comic:
The moral point of view of the movie is also almost opposite of that expressed in the comic; the film’s Wesley is a bit arrogant and a total badass assassin, but he’s still the hero; he’s not a murderer, rapist and villain, as he is in the comic.
Movie-Wesley also isn’t a racist.
Is Comic Book-Wesley? I’m not sure, but the case can certainly be made that he is. Or, at the very least, that the white character has some issues with characters with darker skin than his. Or should the case be made that it is the character’s creator, the guy filling his head with thoughts and his mouth with words, who has some issues? [...]
I’m not sure what to make of this scene. He points out that she’s African-American in the narration, and in the next sentence says “I’m embarrassed by the situation.” Embarrassed that he’s being yelled? Or that he’s being yelled at by his “African-American boss” as he says, or that he has an “African-American boss” at all?
I don’t know. But including the words “African-American” to the narration at all encourages one of the latter readings. The art clearly indicates that the woman he’s talking about is African-American, so why redundantly mention her race if he was only embarrassed by the fact that he was taking shit from his boss?
Mozzocco also clearly paints the picture of the role of Fox, which I suppose is why Cheryl Lynn was glad the part went to Angelina Jolie:
The only other black character in the book is Catwom—er, Halle Berr—er, The Fox, and while she has substantially more panel-time than, say, The Professor or Mr. Rictus, her character is hardly more developed: She likes having sex (to the point that she regards both Gibsons as life support systems for their cocks, which is all she’s interested in about them), she likes money, she likes killing people and she never, ever lets her nouns and verbs or tenses agree.
Considering these scenes, it’s understandable why the filmmakers wouldn’t want to stay too faithful to the source material—some of it is pretty ugly, and would give the film a lot more baggage than anyone would reasonably want to invest millions of dollars into lugging around in public.
So essentially, the film is less racist than the comic. And they decided to swap out the bitchy black boss for a bitchy white fat boss? Just magical.
My anger at the Wanted movie went even deeper than the racial stereotypes though. I can leave aside the fact that there was no character development of the side characters. Common is one of the assassins and as far as I can tell, he was paid to smolder in the corner. Every time we see him, he’s giving someone the hairy eyeball. But that and only that. He has three lines the entire movie. But whatever – no one else had lines to speak either.
The Fox has limited screen time, heavy on the ass kicking. She gets one monologue near the end, designed to reveal her humanity, but by that time there isn’t enough attachment to the character to feel anything as she tells her tale.
Sloan is a stereotypical villain. The only glimpse of potential from the character comes from close to the end of the film, where’s he’s giving his standard issue supervillain speech and breaks with the haughty high-handed language to implore his cronies to “shoot this motherfucker” and get back to business. A brief moment of levity in an otherwise boring ass scene, with another boring villain-escaped-so-I-scream-his-name-into-an-empty-room scene right after.
And there was my main issue with Wanted.
For a white guy against the world flick, it was boring as all hell.
While there were a couple scenes that gave me some grim amusement (the “Fuck You” flying keyboard was a nice touch) the movie was just flat. I didn’t care about any of the characters. The protagonist was annoying. I saw the first plot twist coming twenty minutes before it played out on scene and started guessing the dialogue in my head.
I haven’t done that since I saw Batman and Robin.
I wasn’t even this bored when I saw the Departed, which is a movie based on a film I already saw six times. (Note to self: check all reviews of big budget movies before you go see them, lest you see the remake of your favorite HK action flick butchered.)
As we exited the theater, my friend Hae turned to me, confused.
“I don’t know why I didn’t like it,” she said. “It had everything I normally like – action, guns, stunts, cars…”
I wanted to break down all the levels of suck for her, but I didn’t know where to begin.