Since the Black Widow movie was postponed, the only film I was looking forward to releasing in 2020 was Wonder Woman 1984.
The first, entitled simply Wonder Woman, which came out in 2017, was my gateway film to superhero movies. Not to say I didn’t already own Batman Begins and hadn’t seen a few others in times past, but until watching Wonder Woman, I thought all superhero movies were the same. Kind of silly, a bit trite, and though enjoyable, not that deep. Or utterly dark and depressing and best saved for certain nights when you just need to release that gloom of the soul. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Christian Bale.)
In summer 2017, two girlfriends talked me into hitting up the theatre – something I rarely did at the time – to see Wonder Woman. I went in griping in my heart, assuming I’d wish I could restore my two+ hours lost to the thing.
Instead, we walked out reveling in beauty, depth, and inspiration. One friend told me she totally saw Wonder Woman’s heightened physique as something I could and should achieve. My wedding celebration was only a few months away, so I took the inspiration and ran with it – literally – and lost 15 pounds and toned up significantly.
When my now-husband brought his collection of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films into our home a few weeks later, I was willing to give them a shot because Wonder Woman had been so well done. Thor & Thor: The Dark World left me disappointed, but not the rest of the MCU.
So, when I say I personally had high expectations for Wonder Woman 1984, I genuinely expected this to be another film I’d walk away from feeling deeply inspired, motivated, and encouraged by, excited to face a new year and new goals. Maybe even some new inspiration for my fitness goals and plans for the year to help through the dark winter months of COVID-19.
The opening of the film with flashbacks to Diana’s childhood felt like a dip into her past as well as a return to the world of the previous Wonder Woman film. The rich, glorious colors provided a beautiful backdrop for what felt like a beautiful opening. It was lovely seeing Diana as a child again and seeing Robin Wright once more (yay Princess Bride!).
But quickly the film roared downhill when the “theme” was revealed. The victory in the contest was ripped from Diana’s young hands because she was “not yet ready to win,” and the reason she was told for this was that she had to “be true to yourself.”
This theme in itself isn’t a bad message, but there was nothing of it in this crushing moment nor throughout the film, except in slipshod inserts here and there, and a final shove-it-down-your-throat speech from Diana toward the very end in a bizarre, unrealistic setting that felt equally preachy and contrived.
I’m not judging the acting here. I thought Gal Gadot did a great job in the role, yet again. Chris Pine? Beautiful. Kristin Wiig and Pedro Pascal? Equally well acted. The roles given to Wiig and Pascal not so much, but the acting, spot on.
The film was all over the place. For those who knew the story as much as for those who didn’t, there was nothing to track with. The fact that there were what, eight, nine producers?, didn’t help coherence or fluidity for the plotlines, direction, or the overall film. I didn’t quite feel anxiety from watching, but I was edging towards it. That may be because I’m a director myself, but who knows?
The most charitable conclusion I can come to is that three films were crammed into one, then capped off with nonsensical details smooshed in for fan service.
Suddenly, Diana has this godlike power that enables her to make things invisible. I mean, it’s a fantasy film and that was your half-hearted, previously unexplored attempt at giving her the invisible jet? Really? You can only suspend reality in so many ways in one film before you come across as desperately trying to pander to one producer or another’s whims.
There were some minor moments that really took away from the film for me as well. Like the not-montage montage. I get the director was dipping into her 1980s and 1990s rom-com inspiration here – after all, much of the point of this movie was to let Diana and all of us say goodbye to Steve, according to some interviews the director gave – but this was a bizarre choice. If you’re going to include this kind of scene – boy trying on all the ridiculous 80s fashion pieces from one person’s eclectic closet – at least toss in an 80s dance number to give us a giggle and those happy feels.
Speaking of 80s songs, there’s such an abundance of incredible music from that era that could have and should have been used in this film. It didn’t have to go all Guardians of the Galaxy on us with the over the top glorious pairing of the 1960s song “Come a Little Bit Closer” with Rocket, Groot, and Yondu slicing their way through a ship full of bad guys, but you could have at least given us some 80s feels with well-paired love songs and power ballads. You had the budget to license them, I’m pretty sure.
Dr. Minerva/Cheetah was, perhaps, the most confusing part of the film. She starts out as this sweet, awkward, generous nerd who we all kind of love-hate. Dr. Minerva is likeable enough, but her self deprecation and misery trigger that memory of either being her or knowing her at some point in life. She’s intelligent, overlooked for no reason whatsoever beyond awkwardness, and she’s genuinely a good person.
Then comes the wishing stone.
This part of the plot is a mixture of “that kind of makes sense” and “…uh, what?”
On the one hand, you can suspend reality a bit for this stone because, well, Diana is an Amazon woman, meaning there are gods in this universe. So, okay. Wishing stones imbued with strange divine power that seem like nasty pranks on humanity fall in line with this particular reality. Greek mythology definitely opens the door for this.
On the other hand, it feels awkward and bizarre because they’ve done a marvelous job at making the universe feel like ours. Mostly, we don’t have to suspend reality when we watch. Diana’s Wonder Wonder outfit and lasso are the main suspensions and not that massively noticeable when we get caught up.
But turning the good Dr. Minerva into Cheetah and ultimately giving us no real resolution – but tearing away her cheetah-ness in the end – lacks foresight. I kind of get that you were saying she changed back – she renounced her wish – but she remains this broken woman whose true character was revealed and now she has nowhere to go with it except a downward spiral of guilt and deeper self-hatred.
The portion of the story about Maxwell Lord and that…insanity is in many ways the most disturbing. It feels like there’s a political statement in there without being specific enough to make any given point. I guess “don’t be greedy for power” is a useful message for anyone, especially in this time of immense political unrest in so many countries across the planet. Or the “when you get your wish, you’ll regret it” aspect is perhaps the ongoing message that all of us need to hear.
But that brings us back to the stated theme of the story: Truth of self.
There’s a vaguely obtuse presentation of this theme in the life of Maxwell Lord, and perhaps in Diana’s life, if you stretch like a cat for it. But it’s so ambiguously buried within the story that I was jarred during that whirlwind speech of Diana’s as she lassoes the theme back into the plotline almost literally with that glowing rope of hers.
When the film finally ended after what felt like, I don’t know, six hours?, I would have cried from the disappointment if I hadn’t been so thrown off by everything.
I suppose that’s what I get for putting hope in something during 2020.