"I'll just get my gear."

Wonder Woman 1984

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (actual onscreen title: WW84) is, due to a strange confluence of events, in an unprecedented position. As the first sequel to a big-cultural-phenomenon comic book movie it was highly anticipated and also something of a question mark – I think we were pretty optimistic, but didn’t necessarily know if director Patty Jenkins (who hadn’t done a big movie before, just MONSTER and some TV) could repeat the magic, or build on it, or if the audience would be as hungry for it a second time. And then the pandemic kicked the world’s ass, America’s in particular, so the movie got pushed back until the Warner Brothers executives panicked and dumped a year’s worth of movies to streaming and it became the highest profile meant-for-theaters blockbuster released directly to streaming on Christmas day.

I enjoyed the movie, and what I enjoyed most is Jenkins’ apparent disinterest in making it a modern Marvel-esque or (even moreso) Snyder-esque comic book movie. Though the action is of the modern volume and contemporary FX-based style, the tone and storytelling are more reminiscent of the Christopher Reeves SUPERMAN movies, some of the corny ‘90s adventure movies I like, a tiny bit of the Burton BATMAN movies, and even (not in a bad way) SUPERGIRL. As I write this I realize that there wasn’t a single moment where I thought, “Ah, that’s setting up for the next one.”

It’s just as sincere as the first WONDER WOMAN, which makes the choice to base the whole story around a god damn magic stone that grants wishes even more audacious. If they ever did that in a Marvel movie they’d make it funny. They’d find dozens of clever gags about how to use it, have Paul Rudd riff about it, it would be fun. Jenkins is not averse to that, and certainly she knows she’s making a goofier movie this time around, but her interest in the gimmick is to use it as an emotional hook and a broad allegory.

I don’t think it would entirely work even under the best circumstances, but the spell would have a better chance of taking hold of an excited, focused audience, coming at an appointed time, paying attention, letting it wash over them, giving it a chance. It’s a premise that can only work if you give a little chuckle and then try to roll with it and see what happens. If you give every boring cynical hack in the world (plus plenty of smart great people with good taste and personality, I’m sure) the power to watch it free with subscription and pretend it’s the worst thing they’ve ever seen even though they haven’t because they just turned the fucking thing on and aren’t even looking at the screen currently then yeah, no shit, it’s gonna have a rough go of it.

But that’s also why WW84 was kind of perfect for this type of release, because this is a quirkier, less universally appealing (although optimistic and happy as shit!) movie than I would’ve guessed, and it turned out it had no responsibility to sell any tickets at all, and yet like ten bazillion people in one day heard some of the dialogue playing on the TV while they looked at their phone. Joke’s on you, fuckers!

Enough about that. WW84 is basically three interwoven stories about three related characters. I’m not including Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor in this trio, though he returns and gets some laughs and some emotions. As in the first one, I’m impressed how down Pine is for just playing the boyfriend. He’s the love interest in the story of Diana, a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, FAST & FURIOUS, FAST FIVE, FURIOUS 6, FURIOUS SEVEN, TRIPLE 9, CRIMINAL, RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET), who in ’84 is working as an antiquities expert at the Smithsonian, and zipping around stopping robberies and shit when she can. (I’m not sure which one she considers her main job.) Those activities intersect after she stops a robbery of some black market artifacts hidden in the back of a mall jewelry store. While the Smithsonian looks over the evidence for the FBI, Diana discovers a weird gem thing with magic powers. And she accidentally brings her dead boyfriend back to life (possessing the body of Kristoffer Polaha, a guy who I thought looked like he could be in Hallmark movies, because in fact he had starred in one I’ve seen part of called A SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS).

Story #2 – the least effective one, but not a total loss – is Diana’s awkward and needy new co-worker Barbara (Kristen Wiig, WHIP IT), who uses her wish to be “strong and special” like Diana. The movie does a great job of making Diana enviable – she’s more fashionable, more charismatic, and physically taller than everyone around her, impressing and charming everybody even in her Clark Kent persona.  The wish does corny things like make Barbara wear better outfits and make dudes start checking her out, but I like when it suddenly cuts to her at work and the entire staff is gathered around adoringly listening and laughing as she tells them stories about herself. And also, she discovers that being “like Diana” means more than she realized.

Barbara has obvious similarities to Selina Kyle in BATMAN RETURNS – not just that glasses are supposed to make her frumpy, but that she’s smart and likable to us, but frequently ignored or embarrassing herself when she’s trying to impress people at work, and then she becomes empowered and gets out of control. But she’s not as compelling of a personality or as cool of an anti-hero, in part because her revenge is against her own social awkwardness, not against anyone we can share her anger with.

Story #3 is (I think) the villain, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal, THE GREAT WALL, THE EQUALIZER 2, TRIPLE FRONTIER). He’s kind of a scammer who does infomercials portraying himself as a rich oil guy and motivational business guru or something. In fact he owns a bunch of worthless oil-free land, but he has somehow learned about this magic stone and has a plan for how to use it to get rich. And then richer. And more powerful. And it keeps escalating, like gambling addiction, or at least a spree that’s paying off too well to call off yet.

Being a villainous phony rich guy with a certain type of hairdo and a pathological need to prove he’s not a loser, you have to wonder if he’s supposed to be some kind of Trump stand-in, which I decided he wasn’t because he cares about his son (Lucian Perez) and is an immigrant. It’s essential to not think of him as Trump, because his appeal as a villain is that he doesn’t seem that much like a villain. He seems to lean closer to “fun guy” than “evil guy.” He screws over assholes and tyrants (giving them wishes that allow him to take what he wants from them) but doesn’t seem to mean anybody real harm before things get out of control as the wishes bring instability all around the world. His closest comic book movie equivalent is definitely Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor, who I’ve never been a big fan of, but I do dig seeing a villain like that in 2020, now that it’s so out of fashion.

So far what I’ve described is some silly shit that could be an episode of the ‘70s TV show, and that is not a criticism. But what I really respect about it is that Jenkins is serious about the lesson Wonder Woman learns, that getting a magic wish is achieving something dishonestly. Bringing back her dead boyfriend who she misses so badly – just like bringing back a character we wanted to see again even though he died in part 1 – is fun while it lasts, and not gonna work. When she (BIG SPOILER) finally accepts this truth, lets him go and walks away, unable to look back, that fuckin got me! And what she learns from her time with him expresses itself in a new super power. So the implication is that every time she flies it will be an act of love and mourning, a celebration of the life and memory of Steve Trevor.

That’s only one way it’s not your everyday 2020 comic book movie. Another one is (ANOTHER BIG SPOILER) the fate of Max Lord. Wonder Woman doesn’t, like… destroy him in a blast of energy. She doesn’t kill him at all. She appeals to his morality and eventually convinces him. And the most revolutionary part is that it’s not even clear if he got in trouble, because it’s not really relevant. What is relevant is that he gave it up for his son. That’s what Jenkins is telling a story about. Not the good guy stopping the bad guy.

(Jenkins is credited as writing with comic book writer Geoff Johns [Blade: The Series, AQUAMAN] and Dave Callaham [DOOM, THE EXPENDABLES, GODZILLA, Jean-Claude Van Johnson]).

Since Max gets a nice ending it’s a little sad that Barbara doesn’t. She renounces her artificial sexy popularity and cheetah powers (long story) but we don’t get to see if she gains confidence in herself. That was the kind of shit I wanted out of this movie! That means it’s unique.

Not everything is as fresh as that. The Cheetah thing comes kind out of left field, basically for an animated fight scene to happen (it’s dumb, but I thought an improvement over the fight against digital Danny Huston David Thewlis in the first one). The DC Universe fictional country of Bialya is used as a generic Middle Eastern country that I think people have unfairly read into because of Gadot’s Israeli heritage, but it’s definitely a stereotype, and a dull one.

Also, I can’t argue much with people who complain that the 1984 setting is wasted. Sure, there’s some Cold War, some WALL STREET rich asshole stuff, an excellent outfit for Diana, a scene where she kicks a Trans-Am, a Duran Duran song. But I might’ve gone from like to love if it really leaned into it. You gotta have a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack, or Harold Faltermeyer, or something, man! They do even less than CAPTAIN MARVEL did with the ‘90s. They have a joke about breakdancers and don’t even have music playing! And there aren’t really ‘80s filmmaking devices other than a trying-on-different-outfits montage. Wouldn’t it be cool if this 1984 felt like the one that gave us NINJA III: THE DOMINATION? I seem to be the only one who liked this anyway, they might as well have aimed at my specific tastes.

I can forgive that stuff because we have here a star blasting out charisma like light rays from the Ark of the Covenant, wearing a brightly colored outfit, swinging around on a magic golden rope, sliding, flipping, kicking, smiling, rescuing various children, sometimes winking at them. As Diana, random dudes are always trying to talk to her, and she could not be less interested. As Wonder Woman she uses her lasso to swing from ceilings, planes, clouds, lightning bolts, missiles, bullets. I adore all the lasso-based action in this movie. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like gravity-defying ludicrousness in your action, I’m sorry for your loss. But this is the good shit. The pure shit.  And I like the deliberate, set-piecey way Jenkins and cinematographer Matthew Jensen (FANTASTIC FOUR) present the action, like the way the camera pans around the mall coming across various characters involved in the robbery and escape attempt. Even with a sunny, artificial shine to everything I still wasn’t sure how they did some of this stuff – there’s a flashback to her childhood where it looks like they had a little girl doing American Ninja Warrior shit in front of a green screen. Wires? Animation? I have no idea.

I’m not saying you have to like it. You probly won’t. But show it some respect. Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins don’t need anybody’s permission. They’re not pandering to anybody, especially you. This movie may not be great, but it’s legit.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 28th, 2020 at 11:38 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

49 Responses to “Wonder Woman 1984”

  1. As stated in the first movie’s comments section, I thought this was a really bumpy ride but I liked the ending so much I can be forgiving and say I enjoyed it.

  2. Watched this the other night and thought it was fine, but a little underwhelming.
    For being two and a half hours long, I thought a lot of it felt rushed, like the sudden change to Cheetah.
    And some of the fight sequences and special effects seemed unfinished, or just poorly done.

    But Gadot and Pascal just radiate charisma every single second they are onscreen, so it made it much easier to stay engaged through the messy parts.
    And it was also a refreshing change of pace to see how earnest and sincere this whole movie was, compared to the normal cynicism of the other DC movies, and the flippant sarcasm of the Marvel universe.

  3. Thanks so much for the words, Vern! “Not great, but legit.” Agreed. The biggest disagreement I had with the movie is that Diana’s main conflict is having to get over a guy. Wouldn’t it be better to have the picture of Steve Trevor in WW’s apartment but to not make the whole movie about how she’s depressed and doesn’t believe in love anymore?

  4. The best thing about these Wonder Woman movies is their sincerity, their lack of any cynicism and irony that at once feels out of time and is the reason half the negative reviews for this include the should-be-obvious caveat, “I really wanted to like it.” The film is thematically sound, as Vern points out, though I think “the truth will prevail” is a more dubious message than the first movie’s “love conquers all.” Even the would-be iconic moment of the night flight through 4th of July fireworks seems dopey, over-calculated and under-thought. Just cuz your plane’s invisible doesn’t make it invincible. But the main problem I had with this one is that the script is unnecessarily muddled, making basic easy story beats unclear, and it’s so long and drawn out that it has no rhythm. Like, I feel the movie probably gets a little better at the end, but I was so disengaged by that point it was hard to pull me back.

  5. Yeah, I had quite a few issues with this one. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t especially like it either. My favorite part was the flashback at the beginning. I went all downhill from there. The tone was all over the place – the action scene in the mall and the whole fish out water stuff with Steve felt like a goofy 80s superhero movie and they felt out of place because that wasn’t the tone of the rest of the movie. The emotional part of Diana realizing she has to give up Steve and not wanting to even though she was losing her power was gut wrenching, but by the time that came along the movie had been dragging for so long it did not have the impact it should’ve/could’ve because the pacing was also all over the place. And there was too much Max Lord. This comes from someone who was hoping to get a lot of Pedro Pascal because I love him, but that was not the way to do it. And the fact that neither Diana nor Steve ever said, “hey, where’s the guy that this body belongs to?” or “should we have sex with this other guy’s body?” is messed up.

    I get and respect that they were trying to make an action, superhero movie where they were trying to say not everything has to lead to violence and violence isn’t always the answer. Or whatever it was they were trying to say. I just don’t think they did a very good job of it.

    I personally loved Kristin Wiig, even if she was playing a tired trope. I go back and forth on this, but I kind of think it would’ve been better without Steve at all. I say this because the emotional component of him and Diana’s wish for him was the best emotional hit of the movie, but I kind of would’ve liked to have it been about something other than a woman wishing for a man. We all knew Steve wasn’t going to stick around, so I really didn’t invest in them. It would’ve been interesting to see Diana forming a friendship with Barbara and then struggling with helping her when she sees what’s she’s becoming and then ultimately realizing she’s going to have to stop her.

  6. Thanks most of all for that sponsor link to the Wonderland Band album. For years I have had fever dream memories of their disco SUPERMAN theme, and now I can finally prove that it is real! (I also love that their WW theme features the phrase “shake your money maker “)

  7. The whole body-stealing thing is so WEIRD. They do nothing with it, and every time you think about it, it distracts from the drama. Like, Diana just walking away from Steve is a great way to stage it and easily the most emotional part of the movie, but the whole time I’m thinking of the poor bastard who went to sleep a few days ago on his futon and suddenly wakes up in an alley in the middle of a huge riot. That would be a perfectly viable opening scene of a horror movie. Then if he manages to survive, he gets to go home and discover that somebody has rifled through his shit and fucked in his bed. A total nightmare.

    You know what, though? I suspect that this material is why the movie will eventually win me over. How often do you get something that balls-out WTF in a $200,000,000 tentpole?

  8. ” they were trying to make an action, superhero movie where they were trying to say not everything has to lead to violence and violence isn’t always the answer.”

    Not sure if anybody saw SPIES IN DISGUISE, that cartoon movie where Will Smith voices a super spy who gets turned into a pigeon, but one thing that that I absolutely loved about it, was its (mild spoiler) pacifist message about how violence leads to more violence and the bad guys don’t have to die at the end. That’s some pretty deep and brave shit for a random kids movie with jokes about how birds pee and poop at the same time. Even Disney cartoons kill their baddies all the time!

  9. Resident Clinton – I didn’t know anybody else knew that one! I have a pretty good collection of disco movie and TV themes, almost exclusively picked up in thrift stores in the ’90s. I think I played “Wonder Woman” in a super hero-themed section of my Video Store Day set last year, followed by “Bat Dance,” the Ice-T Dick Tracy song and that amazing Taylor Dane song from THE SHADOW. I’ve never understood what’s up with the S&M costume on the cover.

  10. A central character who can grant any wish and the chaos which descends on the world when people are just given shit without earning it: a 200 million tentpole shouldn’t be fumbling a ball a lesser Jim Carrey movie 17 years back handled with so much more dexterity.

  11. Henry Swanson's my name

    December 29th, 2020 at 12:25 am

    I agree that the body swapping stuff was super weird. I also don’t understand why it was important to make it a body swap and not just have Steve materialise out of thin air or something? If the missles can dematerialise at the end after a wish is renounced, shouldn’t the opposite be possible too? I feel like not only was the body swapping stuff distracting and weird, they also had to spend a fair amount of time explaining how it worked, when this wouldn’t be at all neccessary if he’d just appeared magically. Anyway, I am over thinking this shit!

  12. Damn, I forgot to use the term “hold back the tide of men” in the review. I liked that phrase. Diana is good at holding back the tide of men who want to talk to her.

  13. I liked this well enough as well. Though its too long at 151 mins.

    Vern, got a question. With all these spinoff projects coming to Disney+ and HBO Max, do you think the superhero bubble will burst? It just feels too much to me.

  14. I actually liked this a little better than the first one. The first one, while entertaining, really struck me as a redo of the first CAPTAIN AMERICA.

    This one…was pretty unique. Its influences are pretty apparent and all over the place, but the co,bination is pretty unique.

    I love Wonder Woman’s first appearance in BVSS though… The way she showed yp yp hel[ defeat that creature, her junle metal theme kicking in…and the “I thought you knew her?” line. So far neither of these movies has quite lived up to that moment.

  15. Certainly too long, and some of the effects looked bizarrely cheap for such a costly movie, but I generally dug it. It’s weird, which is always a plus, and I absolutely love me some Kristen Wiig, she’s awesome.

  16. “I’m thinking of the poor bastard who went to sleep a few days ago on his futon and suddenly wakes up in an alley in the middle of a huge riot. That would be a perfectly viable opening scene of a horror movie. Then if he manages to survive, he gets to go home and discover that somebody has rifled through his shit and fucked in his bed. A total nightmare.”

    Pure Horror!

    Now imagine having had sex with Gal Gadot but retaining no memories or sensations of having had sex with Gal Gadot.

    That’s horror morphing into pure tragedy.

    A 3 Hanky Weepie on par with An Affair To Remember.

  17. Felix – I wonder that too. It seems like the other possibility is that they realize the TV stuff isn’t working and stop making it. With the DC stuff it seems like it won’t be a problem to watch whichever is interesting to you and ignore the rest. Like, I can’t wait for THE BATMAN but assume the cop show spinoff won’t retain my interest for long.

    What Marvel’s doing seems more dangerous because they have the same actors from the movies, making them seem one and the same, and I think it will be impossible for much of the wide audience the movies enjoy to keep track of any of it. So unless they seem unnecessary and off to the side like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. they might start to make normal people throw up their hands and give up.

    What they’re doing with Star Wars also seems like way too much, though those probly make more sense on their own.

  18. I agree there’s just way too much Star Wars now for it to be welcoming to casual fans. Until the Disney sale, it was just six movies, a holiday special and a couple Ewok telefilms (plus some video games, novels, and cartoon series that aren’t even canon). Now it’s just overwhelming, and I’m in the extreme minority who doesn’t like The Mandalorian, so it kinda makes me not want to bother keeping track of it all.

  19. When Disney+ announced its slate, i just frowned. The vast majority of it are spin-offs, remakes. Everything but the kitchen sink.

    What about something original, guys?

  20. There were a few things that worked for me in this movie, lots more that didn’t – nothing that hasn’t been plumbed in the preceding comments or in Vern’s review. Except for these:

    I dug Cheetah when she looked like Daryl Hannah in BLADE RUNNER and I liked her getting the best of WW in the fight in the White House. Great fight, crystal clear and in broad daylight – loved it. Definitely wish she had kept that look and fighting style for the final fight.

    And,

    I had to laugh at the unintentionally (I think) awesome and ludicrous exchange when WW calls Barbara from a payphone on a street in suddenly riot-torn Cairo (I think?). Barbara: “The only clue is a flyer I found that was put up by some guy who’s got an office above Galaxy Records!” WW: “I’ll be right there!” Cut to, seemingly seconds later, them both walking right into the guy’s office, and he immediately busts out an ancient tome of Mayan-style glyphs with exactly the info they need. That is some true-to-the-spirit-and-logic-of-superhero-comics business right there.

    Though I was genuinely hoping throughout that scene that the shaman-looking dude was going to be part of WW’s entourage for the rest of the movie. Maybe he’ll be back in the next one?

  21. Another thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was how did Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor miss all this stuff when they were putting together their dossier on her? Everyone still seems to have their memories when they come out of it. That’s pretty shoddy work to miss several sightings of a strange woman going around saving people just before that crazy day where everyone launched nukes, including places that didn’t have nuclear armaments, only to have them disappear out of the sky when a disembodied female voice spoke to the world through a guy beaming himself to all electronic devices telling them to renounce their wishes. But hey maybe that’s not all that memorable.

  22. I enjoyed the movie. I’ll take the contrary position that I liked how restrained it was about the 1980s stuff. I liked that it treated the 1980s as a real world where adults lived and worked and worried, rather than a toybox of pop culture references. While I appreciated the scene with the punks (time to update that DESTROY ALL MOVIES book), overall I like that they mostly didn’t feel the need to go the HOT TUB TIME MACHINE “ha ha, a Walkman” route.

    Hearing that people are bashing the movie is kind of disappointing. It wasn’t mind-blowing or anything but I was entertained. I thought the whole point of these colorful fantasy films was that they give you something different from the mundane. So I’m bewildered whenever these movies get long nitpicky complaints about how the middle section wandered too much or the lighting was wrong or the CGI of a thoroughly unrealistic situation wasn’t completely convincing. I don’t know who’s making all these rules.

    I used to grumble about the preponderance of comic book movies, but more and more I realize we take the quality of these things for granted.

    A committee of people have to figure out just the right casting for a character with decades of history and expectation. They have to decide which era or continuity to use as a baseline for their film version, or which bits from which eras to fit together into something new. They have to decide on a look and a tone, and get all the designers and effects people on the same page. They have to decide how much sense the made-up science from the comics needs to make, and how much screen time they can afford to spend trying to set up and explain and rationalize it. And somehow the director and actors have to be able to see the big picture when so much of what’s going on is being painted in later.

    And then, if they can somehow pull all that off, they then have to figure out how to do another one that will feel like something new and fresh, now that the anticipation of the first one is gone. (It gets even trickier in the TV or Marvel model, where you also have to worry about how to fit all this in an even larger plan about what needs to happen half a dozen installments later.)

    I mean, to have an opening scene set in a made-up ancient Greek type of civilization and then jump to 1984 for the rest of the movie, trusting us to understand the connection between the two, is a 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY-level leap that we don’t even bat an eye at.

    Also, maybe I’m just corny, but as I get older I really appreciate movies where the theme is about overcoming your own ego and foibles and trying to become a better person. I can see why people might read that as a conservative “know your place” kind of message, but to me it rings true as an issue that one struggles with in real life as an adult. This movie juggles three characters – one hero, two villains – who are all grappling with that in different ways.

    This past week I finally saw that Netflix movie MANK, about the writer of CITIZEN KANE. It was well made and everything, but it’s in the familiar tradition of a Hollywood biopic being made in a retro style to resemble that person’s work (ED WOOD, THE AVIATOR, etc). I know I’m selling it short because there’s political stuff in this one too, but for me it was 2.5 hours of Gary Oldman acting drunk and yelling at people. The fact that it’s about a guy giving full reign to his ego and addictions makes it an interesting contrast to the themes of WW84. And it’s following one guy around, it’s not juggling three different emotional arcs.

    The fact that the more oddball and (literally) more colorful movie is getting laughed at, while the movie that to me seems more traditional and been-there-done-that is getting Oscar buzz, is the kind of thing I’m having to learn to just accept about how people other than me watch movies. I didn’t think either one was a masterpiece, but I know which one I got more out of and it wasn’t the more respectable one.

    To circle all this back to my original point, I liked that the movie’s 1980s comes from Time magazine more than Starlog. It shows a world defined by oil and money and international tensions, not Atari or Rubik’s Cubes. When “Star Wars” is mentioned it means the SDI missile plan, not the Lucas movies. To me all that actually makes this a more grown-up movie than it’s getting credit for.

  23. The first Wonder Woman movie was praised for capturing the optimism of the Christopher Reeve Superman films, but I felt like this one actually evoked the overall tone. It plays like a cross between Superman 2 and Supergirl, which is probably why I enjoyed it more than the original. Yes, the first is still a better-crafted movie, but occasionally it’s fun to see a superhero property be this messy and weird and unapologetic.

    I assume the whole body swap gimmick stemmed from early in the production when everyone was just trying to figure out how to bring Steve back. And once the writers started having wishes materialize out of thin air, they were too committed to the body swap subplot to let it go.

  24. Felix- I sort of suspect that our feelings, and to be clear I do agree with you, won’t be shared by the younger generation who have grown up with or come of age when all-encompassing franchise and “content” excess has been the norm, or at least very openly the goal. Also I suspect Disney will be savvy enough to make watching everything in the MCU desirable but not essential, but we’ll see.

  25. I guess we’ll find out how it all plays out next year. I am secretly rooting for it to fail. Endless sequels, remakes and spin-offs will hit a wall eventually.

  26. Curt: insert standing ovations gif here

    Loved your post and pretty much agree 100%

  27. I love superhero movies, but I tend to take them less seriously than most fans. As long as they’re showing me some fun superhero shit without insulting my intelligence too hard, I can go with whatever half-assed lunacy they throw at me. That said, I don’t think we should overlook unforced errors like plotting your film so that the audience spends two-thirds of its running time wondering if Wonder Woman technically counts as a rapist. You gotta fuck up pretty bad for that to be the main takeaway from a film everyone went into expecting to love and makes memes and Halloween costumes about. It took the audience less than 10 seconds to figure out the fatal wound in this story. Why shouldn’t we expect the professionals who spent every minute of the last three years of their lives working on it to notice it too? I’m all for overlooking minor flaws in service of fun escapism, but when do we get into “It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare” territory?

  28. I think it will be impossible for much of the wide audience the movies enjoy to keep track of any of it

    Stan Lee had a rule: “Every comic book is someone’s first comic book” which is why when you pick up Spiderman #188 it’s still explaining his powers within the first couple pages. I’m certain they’ve already updated that rule replacing ‘book’ with ‘movie’ or ‘show’

  29. Majestyk – I can’t argue with that if it really bothered people, but I genuinely watched the whole long ass movie and that issue didn’t occur to me at all until I saw you or somebody post about it. The body takeover is treated as such a magical, unexplained device, even having that moment with the other guy ending the movie, that I still have a hard time taking it that literally when I think about it. Is the idea that because Wonder Woman and “Handsome Man” seem to have some kind of magical connection at the end that means his consciousness must have been somehow present and therefore it’s more rapey?

    I guess my stance is that because magic dream stone temporary resurrection possession off screen implied sex doesn’t have an equivalent in the real world we are allowed to take the movie at its word that it’s fine. But then again I was the one who was bothered that that lady stole a cat-eating sea monster from the lab and fucked it in her bath tub, so I get it.

  30. It’s true that we’re not supposed to question this in the movie’s fantasy realm, but it definitely occurred to me while watching – not in an “I’m highly offended” way, but in the sense of “Man, how did the screenwriters not notice this issue over multiple drafts?” It’s very bizarre.

    It’s been a while since I saw The Shape of Water, but wasn’t the sex with a stolen cat-eating sea monster at least consensual?

  31. Vern: The instant Steve showed up, it bothered me, and it never stopped bothering me the entire time. Putting aside the whole rape issue, it’s still fucked up. If the wish didn’t cause Diana to lose her powers, it is implied that she would have let this innocent man disappear forever so she could keep Steve around. That is murder, pure and simple. It’s a demonic possession movie where the demon is the good guy. And the movie never once calls her on it. The fact that another person had to lose his life (a life our heroes mock him for while rifling through his shit, by the way) for Diana’s happiness is simply not a factor in the moral algebra of the story. This man’s life simply doesn’t matter. I cannot fathom how anybody thought this would fly, especially in the same franchise where motherfuckers lost their minds when Superman snapped a genocidal warlord’s neck before he could laser some children in half. How is that cold blooded murder but this isn’t? I’m almost impressed something so obviously insane and wrong ended up in a movie this huge.

  32. But the movie, Wonder Woman and Steve all agree with you that it would be wrong, and they don’t do it, and the guy gets his life back and seems perfectly happy and even possibly gonna get to know Wonder Woman. Right?

  33. No, they send Steve back so Diana can get her powers back and save the world. The poor displaced gentleman is not a factor in their decision at all. As far as I can tell, the fact that stealing a guy’s entire life from him is wrong, even a guy who dresses like a douchebag and sleeps on (gasp!) a futon, never comes up once. They play it for laughs. Ha ha, this guy’s clothes suck. I bet nobody loves him. High five! Let’s do our level best to get him involved in an international incident! Hope you like having your face on a list, Handsome Man! Maybe you should of thought of that before you bought a futon!

    And that scene at the end is just…gross. It’s be like a guy flirting with a woman who doesn’t know he’s the guy who roofied her last weekend. That is some Lifetime movie shit. This man is your unwitting victim, Diana. You don’t get to be his pal.

  34. It’s a good point to ask why the wishing stone is able to generate missiles and a giant wall, but not a human body. Maybe it can create objects but not people (unless I’ve forgotten something in the movie which contradicts that). Or maybe its power hadn’t escalated so much at that early stage. Or maybe Diana’s wish wasn’t specific. I don’t know.

    The moral issues about Steve borrowing a body are interesting. To me this is just a more extreme version of that action trope we’ve all seen where the hero steals a minor character’s car or clothes (as Diana stole someone’s dress in the first movie). A difference is that here everything is put right at the end for that character.

    It’s also a good point that Steve’s host body has now been to the Middle East and so on, and that he could therefore theoretically be on some FBI list. But to paraphrase Vern’s defense of MAN OF STEEL, I think the movie would have told us about it if there were such serious consequences. I seem to recall Scott Bakula having a whole TV show about doing the same thing to a lot of people on a weekly basis, but perhaps that was a different time.

    I like KayKay’s interpretation of this dilemma.

  35. My interpretation was that Diana spends the bulk of the movie affected by the wishing stone’s magic in a way that’s similar to what Superman experienced in Superman III. Things never become as over-the-top as spiking beer nuts into a mirror but it definitely surpasses the “I always get there in time” phase.

    We see that in her selfish insistence that she wants “this one thing”- even as Steve tries to convince her to move on. So she is slowly losing the qualities that make her Wonder Woman and as a result is a far more flawed character than in previous film appearances.

    It’s not until the very end of the film (and not the ‘goodbye to Steve’ scene) that she finally learns the lesson of the prologue and admits the price for her wish was too high. The admission is vague enough that you could interpret it as remorse for everything- including what happened to the futon guy. Ditto for the ending, which implies that the physical effects were all magically reversed with no real-world complications. And if that’s the case, how much of her relationship with futon guy actually left a discernible trace?

  36. Curt, in QUANTUM LEAP, Scott Bakula not simply took over other peoples’ bodies, he switched places with them, so they ended up in his body the futuristic year of 1999, where his team could make sure they are okay. Plus: Dean Stockwell always looked up in his computer what happened in the altered timelines, so they could assure the audience that nothing they did would have a negative impact on the person’s life. Also Dr. Sam Beckett always refused to have sex with the respective partner of the person he leapt into.

    Haven’t seen this movie here, but it sounds quite different from how they handled it back then.

  37. I woke up thinking about what the actual message of this movie is. It seems like it should be something positive and easy, like “Don’t cheat because if you don’t earn your victory with hard work, it will be tainted.” Which is fine. Sure. Why not? Except then you think back to the first scene, with all these fully grown Amazon women who worked their whole lives to earn their spot in this grand contest of skill and stamina, and you think about how they must feel competing against this little fucking girl who wasn’t even allowed to train until like a year and a half ago but who gets to compete on their level simply because a god decided to give her superpowers. How is getting superpowers from a magic rock cheating but being granted them by a god not? Bitch, you were born on third base and now you’re lecturing poor Kristen Wiig for trying to steal second? “The world is beautiful as it is” sounds like some real meaningful shit until you realize that that is the Republican party’s motto. Is there a better definition of conservatism than “The only problem with the world today is you people trying to fix it?”

    Stop trying to change things for the better, puny commoners! Your betters have already perfected the world and decided your place in it! Do not attempt extraordinary measures to alter the status quo! You will only make things worse and force those granted special privileges from birth to be distracted from the happiness that is theirs by right! Do not fight back against your oppressors! What if you injure your rapist while defending yourself? Is that not the greater crime? You used to be so nice back when you were a doormat! Now you have the confidence and power to enforce your will the way I do and it is making me extremely nervous! Why can’t you accept that the vast majority of you are just objects to be used for the pleasure or convenience of those who actually matter? Handsome Guy gets it! He was completely consumed by one of the beautiful people for days without his consent and he’s just fine! Why can’t you all just lay back and let it happen like he did? Doesn’t he look happy? He is experiencing the special bliss that only comes from complete and utter servitude. Don’t be like Cheetah, all sad and wet and alone. She thought she could control her own destiny and look where that got her. Barely two attempted rapes and now she’s so angry all the time. Next thing you know she’ll be smashing windows at a TJ Maxx downtown to protest police brutality. Sure, the entire system is a meat grinder but is that any reason to act uncivil? Can’t you see that if you are weak and insignificant it’s because you deserve it?

    I mean, I’m going overboard here, but I’m having a hard time finding a positive message in a movie that makes a 1:1 correlation between “truth” and “the status quo” and “aspirations” and “lies.” There’s no way that was the intended message, but it’s just more evidence of how absolutely muddled and incoherent everything about this story is. And when you realize the entire plot likely arose out of the burning need to get its feminist icon’s hunky boyfriend back onscreen by any means necessary and you realize this movie just doesn’t have any fucking idea what it’s trying to say.

    And what about the climax? Based on what the past year has revealed of human nature, could it be any more full of shit? In 2019, the idea of every single person in the world behaving unselfishly for the greater good would have been laughable. In 2020, it is downright insulting. Motherfuckers think wearing a cloth mask for like 10 minutes while they’re in Target is a malicious attack on their personal freedom. You think they’re gonna give up their free Porsche just because of a little nuclear annihilation? Fuck no. Those bombs will probably fall on somebody else anyway. Fuck ’em. That’s their problem. Also I’m pretty sure this whole end of the world thing is all a liberal hoax anyway.

    Also I keep thinking about that shot of Diana rolling around on the road with two hilariously stiff mannequin children in her arms.

    This movie is really bad in a really fascinating way, you guys.

  38. I know I’m overthinking this. I assure you I’m not angry about it. There are enough incidental pleasures on offer here that I will happily rewatch the movie someday. I’m just fascinated by how a story told with all the best intentions by smart and talented people can whiff so fucking hard in such bizarre ways. It just goes to show how difficult it is to see the obvious about a piece of work when you’re deep in the process of making it. Your unconscious biases will out themselves one way or the other. I guess I’m glad there’s still room for idiosyncratic failures like this. They’re more interesting to unpack than competent successes.

  39. I started to call it the “Back To The Future Critic Syndrome”.

    Y’know, as I said a few months ago in the discussion for that movie, I don’t see anything wrong with the McFlys being rewarded with self esteem that lead to happiness and yes, success, money and nice shit. Of course it became the popular opinion to disagree with that “horrible, materialistic worldview”. And how you describe it, the same people, who thought the McFlys deserved to be borderline trailerpark trash who still live in fear of their high school bully, wrote this movie. “What? You have a chance to remove your child’s cancer on his deathbed with one simple wish? Well tough luck, you don’t deserve it. Wonder Woman said it’s an unfair shortcut, so do what’s right and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, so we can live happily ever after.”

  40. I hadn’t even thought about how the movie can’t even conceive that some people might use their wish for actual good and not just frivolous, selfish reasons. It sure doesn’t have a high opinion of the masses, whom it presumes will, one and all, fritter away their wishes on stuff they don’t need. Is this because the movie was made by people who can’t imagine what actual needs are because they already have everything life has to offer? Whatever the reason, I guess us commoners should just shut the fuck up and wait for Wonder Woman to tell us what we want because we clearly can’t be trusted to make the decision ourselves. She’s like the electoral college of superheroes.

  41. Vern: Sorry to hear you found THE SHAPE OF WATER AKA GRINDING DORY problematic. But the difference is, that odd coupling was consensual.

    Also, I find it far easier to sympathize with a mute janitor, mocked for her disability, condescended to owing to her station in life and sexually harassed because of her gender than an Amazon Warrior Goddess, seemingly ageless, holding a position of power, who can’t walk 5 steps without some dude hitting on her and played by one of the most beautiful actors in the world, who tearfully proclaims that she wants something to “go right for her for once in her life”

  42. Also, Maj has touched on this as well, but I’m not sure I want to unpack a scene, written for a movie featuring an iconic Female Superhero and directed by a woman to boot, that shows a newly empowered woman beat the living shit out of her would-be-rapist, and this incident is held up as an example of her losing her humanity.

    Err…what the fuck????

    Would you be losing your humanity if you tossed Hitler into a Gas Chamber in Auschwitz and watch that motherfucker choke to death? Or torture Stalin in one of his numerous gulags?

    Yeah, I’m overthinking this as well, but maybe I wouldn’t have if they had blown shit up more frequently.

  43. I do wonder what they were going for with the beating up the harasser thing. To compare her to Selina Kyle again, it’s fair to say that something that felt subversive and empowering to explore in a comic book movie three decades ago (a woman violently striking back against shitty men) is worth deconstructing now. But obviously we’re gonna prefer rooting for Selina to do it over poo-pooing Barbara for taking it too far. That’s one reason why Selina is more fun.

  44. Hello gang. First of all, let me be the asshole in the room to point out a mistake in the review: it’s not “fight against digital Danny Huston” on the first wonder woman but “fight against digital David Thewlis”.
    As to my humble opinion on the movie.
    First 15 to 20 minutes had me hooked. The Amazonian race was so well done with great effects making you believe you were seeing the girl doing a lot of that stuff. Great music accompanying it from Hans Zimmer. Epic in every sense with minimal dialog. After that we go straight to the mall sequence with its bright colors, zany “superman 3 in a good way” action and people reactions to the hero. All of which I loved.
    And then…..the party ended for me very abruptly. Endless exposition. Endless talking. Too much focus on everybody else except wonder woman. Kristen Wig doing her usual schtick. From office to apartment to another office to somebody somewhere being “Basil Exposition”. Chris Pine trying hard but for sure not needing to be in this movie. When the first action sequence came after all that somewhere around the 1 hour 20 minute mark, I was zoned out. It only got more “I don’t care any more” after that.
    Producers and directors need some self restraint and discipline. This movie was like they nether bothered to make a second or third or fourth tighter cut of it and went on and released the first assembly.
    Wonder woman is playing second fiddle in her own sequel. The movie should have been called “Max Lord & the Cheetah”.
    The whole Cheetah “wish” and subsequent fight was stupid needless and dumb / not well made.
    On a technical gripe, how stupid is it to only have two scenes filmed in imax in a 2 and a a half hour movie, and one of them being her walking down a street??

    I loved the first WW. Re-saw it 2 days before the new one and it still got me. Diana being the fish out of water, so determined on her goal and yet with child like wonderment to everything she sees and experiences. Loosing Chris Pine at the end.

    I hated this one.

    PS
    A lot of trying to feel like Christopher Reeves Superman (and this I Mena in a good way). The color scheme, the brightness and specific scenes as well. At some point she is running really fast and the effect is the exact same as young Clark Kent running alongside the train in Superman.

  45. Happy new year everybody!

    So I guess now I gotta defend my girl Barbara. First of all, I love dorky gals, and Kristen Wiig stole my heart in the GHOSTBUSTERS remake. So her transformation from adorably awkward nerd to a miniskirt-and-mascara-wearing avenger was entirely up my street, and all by itself probably kept me more engaged with the movie than I might have been otherwise.

    Second of all, I gotta question the idea that we need to completely agree with a character’s morals in order to be entertained. In the real world I would not approve of Jason killing people or Godzilla destroying buildings or Hans Gruber doing both, but I sure wouldn’t be watching their movies if they didn’t do that stuff. I never saw MS. 45 or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE but I’m guessing those ladies go way too far and that this is specifically why those movies have followings.

    Maybe the expectations are different for a family-friendly superhero movie than for a monster movie or slasher movie. And I understand wanting a rare female-led tentpole to be entirely on the right side of these moral debates, but to me that just seems like an unfair and unrealistic double standard.

    I think the movie’s stance on Barbara is “well, maybe you shouldn’t have kicked the guy for two blocks, but good for you for standing up to him.”

    Actually it’s a bit odd that he remembers bothering her before. If he didn’t, it might have strengthened both the theme of casual dehumanizing misogyny and also the idea that Barbara is an easily overlooked wallflower. It could have been a “you’ll remember me NOW” moment. Oh well.

  46. Curt – I think the complaint, which I sort of agree with although I liked the movie way more than the people making it, was not that the character has questionable morals, but that the movie was too judgmental of her for them. Like, the lady who beats up the rapey guy a little more brutally than necessary should be way too low on the list of people to wag fingers at to make it into this movie’s sights.

  47. Curt- Imagine a WW84 that had far better writers. A scene to illustrate Barbara’s loss of humanity would have had her walk past the homeless guy she greets on a regular basis. Upon him saying hello, she responds with “Fuck off”.

    That’s a far better and less muddled demonstration of a once compassionate character turning into an asshole.

    Not her going all Little Bill Daggett on a rapey English Bob. Because there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong in a woman going all Little Bill Daggett on rapey English Bobs.

    The fact that the script had the SAME drunk prick standing in a different part of the city looking for women to molest speaks volumes about the type of thinking that went behind it. I use the term “thinking” loosely.

  48. Fair criticisms. KayKay, the one thing I would respectfully disagree about is that I don’t think it would be thematically better for her to turn her back on the homeless guy. I think the whole theme of the movie (if there is one) is of people getting their wish too easily or having too much power over other people, and thinking that it’s justified. It would be out of character for Barbara to turn against the homeless guy, but not for her to fight someone who’s threatening her.

    Actually, I kind of like how Barbara’s beating of the harasser is ambiguous. Yes we want the guy to get his ass kicked, but should we, and how badly should he be beaten before the punishment no longer fits the crime? Has our frustration against injustice gotten to the point that we endorse violence? It’s satisfying and troubling at the same time, and I guess I liked that.

    What’s even more interesting to me is that such a “yeah, that was okay” movie is inspiring so much debate. While I enjoyed the movie more than Mr. Majestyk, I wholeheartedly support his view that incoherent films are more fascinating to analyze.

  49. I know everyone has moved on from this movie, but I watched it for the first time this weekend, and it’s so bizarre and incoherent. During the final climax where Wonder Woman gives her little speech asking for people to renounce their wishes because the world is already so beautiful, my wife turned to me and said “This is borderline offensive.” It’s one of those messages that sounds nice to people whose existence has been padded by the comforts of privilege, but for most people, wishing for something better isn’t trying to take a short cut. It’s trying to live a better life when the odds have been stacked against you. If you’re poor your whole life, then wishing for a million dollars isn’t being selfish. It’s trying to lift yourself out of the depredations of poverty in a society where that’s nearly impossible.

    It’s telling that with everything wrong with this movie, I didn’t even hear this criticism until my wife mentioned it to me and then I stopped over here in the comments to see what the Vern community thought. Before you get to the awful message at the end of the film, there are just layers of terrible you have to get through.

    Halfway through the movie I turned my wife and said, “Wonder Woman 84 is this generation’s Superman III.” That’s the superhero movie it reminded me of the most, for good and bad. It’s plotting is weird and it’s incredibly goofy. To its credit, it feels like an 80s superhero movie made with modern special effects. And just like Superman III, WW84 has no clue how computers work and falls apart the moment you start to think about it.

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