Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman 1984 2020
Even though not a whole lot of films came out last year, this was the biggest one that I overlooked. The reception was very mixed, with some people enjoying the new take on Wonder Woman, but many people weren’t very fond of this movie which is a very different version of Wonder Woman as her first movie. And this is despite having practically the same creative team behind both movies. Instead of taking place in World War I, it’s taking place in the 1980’s and all the kitsch and nostalgia associated with it. The tone is much lighter and there is a stronger undertone of magical reality than what was present in the first film. And even though I watched it several days ago, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the film as a whole. I generally enjoyed many parts of it, but I severely questioned several decisions throughout the film.
One of the biggest questions to take away from the character of Diana Prince at the start of this movie and throughout much of the movie is how she is still so hung up on a guy that she spent a few weeks with about seventy years prior. It wouldn’t be out of the question for her to still remember him as a long lost love, but for her to practically put her entire life and love life on hold for what most of us would consider an entire lifetime is a little extreme. It does strengthen her bond with his… ghost, spirit, presence, essence, whatever it is that Quantum Leaps back into a random guy’s body, but it does so at the expense of Diana’s agency as a strong woman. And as all this happens at the start of the movie, it really kicks the legs out from under her character right from the start. Which is a shame because when it kicks into the opening action sequence at the 80’s era mall, it ignores the past melodrama and we get to see Wonder Woman do what she does best. It’s a fantastic action scene with plenty of extra touches to show that she isn’t just about getting the bad guys, but she’s also focused on protecting those who need protection while also doing what she can to protect her own anonymity. It also subtly introduces the main Macguffin of the movie.
Kristin Wiig is another excellent addition to the movie as the character who will eventually and briefly become Cheetah. Her Barbara Minerva starts out as a practically invisible, mousy woman in the vein of Selina Kyle in Batman Returns or Max Dillon in Amazing Spider-Man 2, though her performance is much more in line with the former. She is great at exuding this nervous energy as a woman who just doesn’t have much self confidence. And also unlike either of the two previous examples, Diana actually puts in the effort to befriend Barbara and the two of them actually work well together while the Dreamstone works to make Barbara more powerful but also less moralistic.
It probably is a good time to talk about the Dreamstone at the center of this film. It’s this magical artifact that grants wishes, or technically it grants a single wish to each person who comes in contact with it but with the Monkey’s Paw-esque catch that will eventually cause the destruction of the person who made the wish. Diana wishes for her long lost love to come back, which he does through a random host body. And the host body itself is used for a couple jokes but the movie very quickly brings back Chris Pine in a way that’s somewhere between Quantum Leap and Shallow Hal. The audience sees Chris Pine because that’s how Wonder Woman sees him. But there’s also never matters in any practical way that he looks like a slightly less attractive guy instead of Chris Pine. Diana’s sacrifice for her wish is that she begins to lose her demi-god powers. Meanwhile Barbara wished to be more like Diana, not initially knowing that her wish would come with god-like strength alongside confidence, and all it cost her was her humanity more or less. It’s a concept that’s much less concrete and subtle than Diana’s Monkey Paw twist.
The real villain of the movie is Maxwell Lord, played by Pedro Pascal seemingly doing his best Nathan Fillion impression as there are few people who are this good at playing a self-important douchebag who doesn’t care about anyone except for themselves. He’s a two-bit con artist who has delusions of grandeur and a son who he seemingly doesn’t care about or even want to be around him, until he does at the very end. His grand idea is to become the embodiment of the Dreamstone, grant the wishes of others and use that residual magical karma to take a little something for himself in the process. It’s a little muddy as to how any of this actually works, but in the realm of magical realism as well as the fact that the Dreamstone itself was created by the god of lies, it’s not too far outside the realm of conceivability. His character is somewhat a cross between a self-important celebrity who is actually very self-conscious on the inside, a televangelist who believes that he is giving people what they want as long as he gets his in return, and someone who is terrified that they aren’t going to be able to stay one step ahead of their own scam. That last bit is probably the best part of his character and something that comes through in the movie quite well. We see that in the beginning when he’s confronted by one of his investors that calls him out on his Ponzie scheme. And it comes back later on as he can feel his own body falling apart as the cost of his wish. It’s also nice that it’s not just the typical bloody nose, though that is used a couple times, but it’s mixed up with some bleeding from the ears and also what looks like a burst blood vessel inside his eye.
But for every good moment, there’s also something to criticize. While the opening action sequence is good, as well as a vehicular action sequence in the middle, the ending action sequence falls comparatively flat. They build up this Amazon armor, they mention it earlier in the movie and it’s featured in the trailer and on the poster. But when Wonder Woman finally dons this golden armor with wings, she uses it to fly to where Maxwell Lord and Cheetah are, uses the wings to shield herself from Cheetah’s attacks for a couple minutes, then throws the armor off and that’s basically the entirety of the armor’s usefulness. On top of that, while Barbara was a great character and the fight between the two of them around the secret service officers was decent, the fight between Wonder Woman and CGI Cheetah was much more of a letdown. The look of Cheetah wasn’t that flattering and the coloring was more grey/white than the traditional yellow-orange.
And while the ending fight scene was a little underwhelming, and the entire concept of the finale was rather difficult to grasp the concept where Maxwell Lord hijacked an early version of a satellite feed that could override any television feed no matter the technology and granted the wishes of everyone in the world at once. But what saved it was the interesting way that Wonder Woman actually defeated the villain, and the fact that the ultimate villain was actually the Dreamstone rather than Maxwell Lord himself. Through the Lasso of Truth, she was able to give a heartfelt speech to convince everyone to renounce their wishes, thereby robbing the Dreamstone of its hold on them and saving the world from imminent destruction. It did border on being contrived, and could easily cross the line for many viewers, but it just barely held the line for myself and allowed Maxwell Lord to redeem himself. There were also a few moments of Wonder Woman expanding her powers by using the same power that hides Themyscera to create her invisible jet, as well as learning to fly through the words of Steve Trevor, and they were cute touches without being too over the top. But it is difficult to really get a hold of this film as the tone frequently shifts from the ultra serious nature of the Monkey’s Paw Dreamstone wishes and the more lighthearted moments of Steve being a man out of time and reveling in the wonders of the 80’s, those shifts are often jarring rather than refreshing and I can easily see why so many people were underwhelmed by this film. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but I was also underwhelmed and couldn’t fully get on board with everything this movie gave me. I just had to accept the moments I enjoyed while I enjoyed them. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.