Wanted: The Moral Universe
*Spoilers to Wanted*
My DVD player broke over the holidays so I’ve fallen a little behind in my watching of mindless action drivel, but hurrah, the new machine is here so I did catch Wanted over the weekend. Film-wise, it’s more or less okay, the first half an entertaining Matrix ripoff, the second half a lot of so-so CGI bang-bang. But idea-wise, it’s pure fascism—although Angelina Jolie shows us her butt so maybe fascism’s not as bad as we thought.
James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson who’s not man enough to stand up to his overbearing boss or stop his girlfriend cheating with his best friend or do just about anything. Then Jolie shows up and teaches him how to be a super-human assassin and kill people. Doesn’t matter which people—although we get the feeling they’re unsavory because one is a businessman and another rides in a limo and smokes a cigar—it’s the killing that makes him macho. Also, he decks his best friend who’s so awestruck by Wesley’s new testicular magnificence he gasps, “He’s the man.”
Since the nature of the dead don’t matter, we’re treated to action scenes in which hundreds of innocent people are destroyed, but we’re not supposed to care. Just pay attention to the Nietzschean Super-Men fighting center screen, children, they’re the only ones who matter. The film concludes with Wesley committing the quintessential fascist act—delivering a bullet to another man’s brain. Then he turns to the camera—to us—and says, “Well, what the f*** have you done lately?” Yeah, he’s the man, all right.
I mean, this is not the usual romance of the outlaw—Scarface or Sopranos or something like that. Romantic though they are, those stories take place in a real world where evil has both a physical and a spiritual toll. In the world of Wanted, the killing alone has significance, the good or evil of the killer and victim count for nothing.
There’s a lot of this garbage going around lately. In the semi-cool video game Assassin’s Creed, you play a killer during the Crusades who takes out both Christians and Muslims—because they're both violent, aren't they? In the great Clint Eastwood’s act of late-life madness—those silly Iwo Jima pictures—we root for the noble Japs over the corrupt Yanks—because isn’t war truly the only villain? And, of course, on the network news this week, the armies of a peace-seeking democratic Israeli state do battle with the low-life Islamo-fascist terrorists who want to annihilate both them and us—and the newsmen are rooting for the terrorists because… well, that’s the question: because why?
Aren’t they, like, missing something? Hm, what could it be? Oh wait, wait, I know: it’s the moral universe! Funny, I had it a minute ago but now I can’t find it anywhere. Hey, maybe it fell into the logical gaps between my relativism and my multi-culturalism.
But don’t worry. If there’s one thing about the moral universe it’s that you can always count on it to turn up again. Usually with a vengeance.