- A hopeful movie
- It’s trad in a plaid maxi dress
- It’s A Wonder Womanful Life
- Still, there are lots of problems
Is Patty Jenkins /ourgirlfriday/?
Patty Jenkins has done the seemingly impossible: give the audience a female superhero that can trigger an emotional reaction in men.
I don’t mean triggering hilarious laughter.
Will the real super-heroine please stand up?
Back in 2017, I liked Diana Prince’s character in Wonder Woman. She was seeing a modern world with ancient eyes, and seeing that world as good and evil, as black and white. She came with armor, a shield, a sword.
She was like a non-ironic, non-obese Lady-Thor.
But her debut was ruined by all the bullshit that came out of the writer’s room. The worst of which was the United Nations of Sidekicks that seemed like a straight-up hack of Steve Roger’s crew in Captain America: The First Avenger.
It was disgraceful and hamfisted to the point of being embarrassing.
But I understand why they did it — they didn’t think Gal could carry the movie.
Which was probably true. Gal, as wonderful and beneficent as she is, is not a female Robert Downey Jr., because there is no female Robert Downey Jr.
However, three years later, Gal is given the movie to carry and for a woman who really can’t act, she bears the weight admirably.
You know the story: in the 80s, Wonder Woman does battle with both Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a scheming oil salesman, and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), a dorky gemologist whose wish to become like Diana turned her into a villainess.
Wishes are the conceit of the movie. A magic stone grants people their wishes but as in the legend of The Monkey’s Paw, which is named several times in the film, there is always a terrible price.
We all know what our Amazonian princess wishes for.
This brings us to what makes the movie different from other female action movies:
Jenkins humanizes Wonder Woman as not only a character of the heroic deed but one of total selfless sacrifice, which is the ultimate act of courage and honor.
Simple and correct
If you want to get men in the theater for a female action movie, make a hero that’s relatable to men’s fantasies. Not by giving us the equivalent of America’s ex-wife.
See, Kevin, this is how you expand the audience.
Instead of tricking them into buying a ticket by lying about how important the movie is to your 22 film franchise arc, you should just try to make your lady superhero a likable character first.
But let’s not get carried away
Wonder Woman 1984 is not a great movie. It absolutely could have been but it misses the mark many, many times with unforced errors that almost ruined the experience for me.
It’s is a good movie, but when viewed in the context of the current cultural climate around gender and politics it becomes an amazing accomplishment.
What’s Great About It
First, let talk about what the movie isn’t because that’s really part of its greatness. This is a lot about politics and cultural issues, so if you’re not into that, skip right to what is in the movie.
It isn’t anti-Trump
Talk of villain Maxwell Lord being a stand-in for Donald Trump is a ridiculous reach. Lord is charismatic and superficial charming; things which no one has ever accused the acerbic and brutal Donald Trump of ever being.
Lord is more like a YouTube guru than anything else — he’ll 10x your cashflow.
Now, there is a moment during the climax of the film that one could look at as either predictive programming or just a coincidence. I choose to believe it’s a coincidence because otherwise, that would mean… well… it would be mean that we have absolutely no power and democracy is a sham.
It isn’t the wretched Captain Marvel
- There is no lecturing about how women really can do all that men can do if only those bad, meanie men hadn’t kept women down their whole lives.
- There’s no meta-commentary about the actress rebutting accusations that she doesn’t smile enough or has nasty, blistered feet. Yes, those were both in Captain Marvel and were both celebrated by the blogosphere as a dig at some make-believe troll audience of women-hating men.
- There is nothing condescending and bitchy about Wonder Woman 1984. There’s not one line from Diana or any of the good guys in the movie that is dripping with resentment or anger. There are no demeaning, obnoxious, passive-aggressive tones.
Even when the pre-stoned Cheetah is a sad, bespeckled, frizzy hair stereotype of the weirdo outsider, she’s not bitter. She’s just sort of accepts it with a gentle sigh. You genuinely feel for her because she is nice about it.
Once more: nasty, snarky, insecure, intensely awkward, insufferable:
A paragon of class, grace and joy:
OK, so it’s not Captain Marvel but what’s great about this movie?
WW84 is wholesome. It’s traditional or as the kids say on the boards, trad.
What Diana wants most in life, her deepest wish is to just have her boyfriend back.
Wonder Woman, while she’s living that generic Hollywood female character life as a #strong, independent woman, is like the elf princess in the Lord Of The Rings, who only loved once in a lifetime.
Men like that idea
Cheetah just wants to be liked, to have friends. And when gains her wish, she initially uses it to just be funny, be the center of attention and — more importantly — be sexy.
This is a movie where women and men find each other attractive without being labeled as “toxic.” Yes, there is a ham-fisted harassment subplot but it isn’t about a guy clumsily hitting on a woman, it’s about criminal assault!
Men like this, too
See, Hollywood, men like it when women want to be beautiful.
Wonder Woman 1984 knows this because this is the very next shot:
But she’s more than just a pretty face
Diana is a good person.
She’s kind, gentle, understanding and nurturing. Even when she’s doing hand-to-hand combat with the baddies, she’s asking them to remember who they are, remember their humanity, repent and come back to the light.
Hell, I don’t even need her to put on the costume, just give me the Diana Prince Show. I would happy to watch this gracious, beautiful woman make the world better by being such a wonderful fucking human being.
This is what
female heroes should be.
I understand the action genre needs a woman to punch and kick and smash, but it’s nice to see a female action character with a feminine side.
And because she doesn’t solve every problem by breaking things, Wonder Woman 1984 becomes a battle of ideas and philosophy, however superficial.
Additionally, what this movie does is pause. Instead of Marvel’s patented “punch punch laugh punch” formula, this is more “punch punch feel laugh think punch.”
And this is intentional. Jenkins was just the director on the first Wonder Woman, where here she is also writer and producer, so she takes all of the credit as well as the blame.
“But I need more action.” 😡
- Take your ADHD meds.
- Go watch Infinity War again.
Look, if you’re the kind of person who thinks Iron Man 3 is the worst MCU movie because it’s the “most boringest,” just get the fuck off my website!
Sorry, I got carried away.
I don’t know, when I think of Wonder Woman 1984 something just comes out of me. Maybe because it has a genuine emotional impact.
From the homely catmom who gets some joy out of her first taste of attention to a back from the dead love-of-your-life, to a loser yelling at his son “I’m not a loser!”, it stacks emotional character moments again and again.
A lot of them don’t land for me, but a few did. And in that way, it’s a unique superhero movie: you care more about the feelings of these characters than seeing your childhood heroes on the screen doing hero things.
Which is something beautiful in modern mass media entertainment. It should be exalted and pointed to as an example of “yes, do more of this.”
What’s Just OK
The action is hit or miss. A lot of the time the geometry makes sense and when it does, as in Cheetah and Diana’s confrontation inside The White House, it’s some of the best action you’ll see in years.
But other times, like when Wonder Woman is saving people at the beginning of the movie, I began to ask questions like “how is her lasso supporting…”
Until I realized that nothing matters because… superhero movie.
Disappointing. A little bit more effort, a little more realism and it’s a better movie.
Dumb Superhero Movie Talk
There is a lot of generic superhero movie dialogue.
Example: Diana’s young 8-year-old self at the beginning is basically ten minutes of “you got this, girl!”
There are opportunities to turn these moments of corny claptrap into moments of genuine character development.
Instead of Little Diana saying “I can do it” have her say “I’m smaller, I can ride faster in the home stretch.”
This makes her not just willful but smart.
Then again, it could be worse:
Admirable, but mistaken
As fellow contributor Freman pointed out, the antagonists are not evil as much as they are misguided, which is kind of a metaphor for the movie itself.
Most of Wonder Woman 1984 is essentially two villain origin stories. These villains are great concepts that are half-baked. They aren’t raw, mind you, this is not Amazing Spider-Man 2 or Civil War. These people have deeply ingrained psychological flaws based on life experiences that make them go off course.
And since Max Lord can’t be defeated by force of arms alone it breaks the standard mold of comic book movies, which always make for the best comic book movies.
Unfortunately, these origin stories are not handled perfectly. In fact, they are almost ruined. This brings us to:
What’s Not Good
First, several “Pet The Dog” moments of absolute mawkishness completely broke immersion for me. I can take sentimentality but it has to be set up in order to be genuine, otherwise, it’s nakedly manipulative.
That sexual harassment subplot. The dumb, weepy son. Saving the Arab kids.
Diana is all the Jedi
Next, are a couple of times where Wonder Woman shows new powers and abilities which I guess are from comic book lore and they sucked.
Example: out of nowhere, Diana can make shit invisible and make the plane she’s escaping in invisible… because, see, she’s got an Invisible Jet in the comics.
Luckily, Jenkins rescues this totally klutzfuck of a sequence with a nice relationship moment: Steve Trevor noticed the fireworks over DC and says “4th of July” and flies into the explosions in their now invisible plane.
It’s a beautiful big scene that is so overwhelming you forget the dumb shit that they did to get you there.
But the next time they did this, it just stopped the movie dead.
She can do what? How are they going to explain her other new ability in the context of Justice League and Superman v. Batman? Does this mean that they’re going to reset the rest of the DC Extended Universe?
A lot of Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t make sense.
So, I Get It
I can absolutely understand why people don’t like the movie. It’s cheesy in places. It’s disjointed in other places. There are glaring holes — they flew all the way to Egypt on one tank of gas? But a lot of superhero movies are like this.
Has anyone gone back and actually tried to watch the Superman movies?
Has anyone gone back and watched Wonder Woman?
What I don’t get is the hate
I think there is a lot going on that is feeding the general dislike for the movie and maybe coloring my judgment:
- I saw this in the theater. Most people saw it on TV. People have been watching a lot of TV since the coof broke out. It all blends together.
- I don’t watch much of anything. So, maybe I’m less cynical about the things I do watch.
- It’s too woke! There’s a cottage industry of anti-woke Super Chat Merchants on social media that make a lot of coin off dissing movies, especially around political/gender issues. So, they are going to play that shit up.
- It’s not woke enough! Critics don’t like it because it is trad and not at in your face about social issues (one “I hate guns” comment aside).
There are always reasons to dislike a movie, especially this movie, but in its totality Wonder Woman 1984 surprised me in good ways.
To quote one of our loyal readers:
“It wasn’t great, but it was kind and hopeful, which is refreshing.”
And that’s more than enough.
We’re going to need an abundance of hope for the things that are coming.