Thank you Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig… For Doing What You Could

If 2020 hadn’t already been difficult enough, I know many of us sitting at home or wherever we may be miss that movie theatre experience, filled tacky-buttery popcorn and small sodas that are larger than most forearms. The thing is, we do take things for granted — which, unfortunately, is what happened (with me) upon watching WW84 this Christmas. Let me preface by saying I don’t mean to trash any artistic endeavor — I am purely trying to approach my problems in a constructive manner. If I don’t, well, oops.

Wonder Woman (2017) for many people was the first celebration for the DCEU. Years in the making which ended up feeling rushed as hell, Warner Bros. consistently fell short of critical global acclaim, while their Disney/Marvel counterpart overtook the superhero cinematic stage. I remember watching WW and immediately becoming both excited and confused.

Gadot in “Wonder Woman” (2017)

What did this mean for the future? Would things be looking up? Eh. I enjoyed Shazam!, thought Aquaman was intriguing visually, and felt Birds of Prey was… messy. Don’t be mistaken, though — I am from a huge DC Comics family. We grew up watching the Super Friends series from the 1970’s, owned however many LEGO Batman Nintendo DS games there were, and dressed up as Superman and Wonder Woman for Halloween countless times. So for me these films have been upsetting not since I’m a Marvel bandit or whatever, but more that I know what kind of stories could and should be told for these characters. Needless to say, WW84 disappointed me.

Firstly, the film’s 1980’s aesthetic felt unnecessary to the overall plot in various ways. Who is Max Lord, and how did he even find information about the stone in the first place? Obviously his motivation was for more “power”, but the film never explores really where that stems from other than I’m assuming a failed marriage and bankruptcy of some kind. Did he need to be in the 1980's? It’s like a high schooler was asked what hot topic was talked about in that era, and their answer was “oil!” — it felt like I was watching a parody or some crash course on the 80’s. Besides the weird mall introduction, Steve’s wardrobe montage, and perhaps a few of Barbara Minerva’s clothing choices, the era felt inconsequential to the development of the story. I mean, was that supposed to be President Ronald Reagan in the White House? A nameless, vaguely similarly-looking one? I also thought the oil storyline in Cairo was oddly tasteless and, again, unnecessary. But honestly, these were minor issues.

Gadot in “WW84” (2020)

Characteristically, Diana is honestly not that great of a person. I’m all for her turning down random men abruptly, but when it comes to the whole “Steve returning in someone else’s body” subplot… things become quite upsetting. The film boldly displays Diana and Steve using some man’s body for their sexual pleasure, and for the sake of readers, I won’t go much further but it is disgusting. I’m not sure how that got past any of the writers. Why did Steve have to return as a soul? The stone could have easily brought him back as a weird ghost and brought the same important lessons for Diana and her wishes. I do like Chris Pine, but Steve’s addition felt again unnecessary and very reminiscent of Steve Rogers and Peggy. Otherwise Gal Gadot is a fine actress. She expressed more vulnerability and risk in her performance which I appreciated, and yes she is a great Wonder Woman, look and all.

Another issue that bothered me was the lack of attention to both physics and general reality. In what world would a Smithsonian employee be able to access those Vietnam-era planes without getting caught on the hangar? In what world would a WWI pilot know how to maneuver one of those planes 60–70+ years later? IN WHAT WORLD do these planes have enough fuel to fly from DC to Cairo, without stopping, fly through literal fireworks, and also get back to DC by the morning? Oh, it just happens to be July 4th, and suddenly Diana can suddenly make objects invisible. Listen, I love the invisible jet… but that is the best they could do to bring it to life (though that sequence WAS fascinating to watch). Also, on the subject of reality, can Patty Jenkins please tell me the Earth she’s living on where people would, for the sake of the saving humanity, renounce their most selfish wishes? Do nuclear weapons suddenly just pop out of nowhere, then vanish again? I just am so perplexed how this seemed rational in 2020, or even 2018/2019 when the film was in pre-production. The stone could have been more, well, tangibly dangerous than just inhibiting Lord’s body. People just do not operate for the good of others — at least on a grand scale — and to display that as a resolution seems lazy to me.

Pine and Gadot rekindling their love in “WW84” (2020)

However one of the most impressively bad items in WW84 happened to be its clear confusion on who the “big bad” is (or just lack of detail). Something that worked in Wonder Woman was its focus on Diana and Steve’s love and how that evolved throughout their relationship. That, backed by the war narrative, helped build her strong and Amazonian character. I would have loved, for a movie set in the 80’s, to have seen a story without Steve where Diana interacts with more women and explores those relationships (not romantically). Barbara Minerva is the perfect example of that, and initially we saw Wiig and Gadot play rather well together in the beginning. Wiig’s Minerva was odd, comical, and impressive. I thought her descent into Cheetah was brilliant… up until the film revealed her intention to “save” Max Lord from accountability. Up until the White House fight, Wiig gave both intelligent and furious energy. The problem is we only got to see a gradual transition of her changing personality and looks.

Wiig and Pascal in “WW84” (2020)

Had the film consolidated, gotten rid of both Lord and Steve, and put most of the focus on Minerva’s friendship and eventual rage against Diana, I think the end battle would have amounted to something much more intriguing and bombastic. How in the hell did the creators think to make Cheetah, one of the weirdest and most vivacious villains from Wonder Woman, fight Diana at nighttime? The film is Wonder Woman 1984… the Lasso of Truth was glowing the whole film… and they decided to make Cheetah barely visible via coloring and filtering. Couple that with her final appearance being in the film for maybe 5 minutes and the word “cheetah” never being used, and you just get a mish-mash of what could have been. Did her wishes get renounced in the end? She doesn’t have her Cheetah appearance, but she still looks like “sexy” Barbara. Overall I’m perplexed and upset.

Cheetah’s (recolored) final form in “WW84” (2020)

I agree Pedro Pascal acted the hell out of this film. He clearly was in another plane of existence the whole time. I thought Kristen Wiig brought a different energy to audiences and I truly felt anxious when she descended into madness. Other than that, the invisible jet was awesome, Lynda Carter’s cameo made me shriek, and Hans Zimmer continues to make glorious soundtracks. I appreciate Gadot and Pine, but their love didn’t need to be showcased again. We can understand her pain just by the pictures and artifacts in her apartment.

If I were to fix this film to fit my dream (which I know is all subjective), I’d make the film solely about Barbara and Diana’s relationship. Take inspiration from the comics, maybe keep or leave out the stone, and find a way to make Cheetah’s rise to her final form (more) terrifying to Diana. Cheetah is a great adversary — keep her that way. If you want to utilize Lord, I’d make him much more manipulative of Barbara and thus create a second degree of resentment there. Cut the Amazonian introduction that felt like scenes from the cutting room floor of the first film, and perhaps don’t focus so much on the flying (the CGI needed a break). I guess I’m just shocked for such a hyped-up film, the effects were oddly glaring and took me out of the action.

Otherwise, I’m proud of Jenkins and the whole team for navigating this difficult time and making WW84 work for audiences. I saw it on HBO Max, so quite possibly me missing out on the IMAX treatment had an effect on my viewing. The film isn’t perfect, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun. It’s just… too much fun and not enough thoughtfulness. People do need to be careful and not attack any of the crew or actors. Sometimes films just don’t work, and that is okay. I still love DC, and while I may have my worries, I’m excited to see what all this feedback will do for the third Wonder Woman film and the adjoining DCEU films. Let’s hope Flashpoint saves us all. I’m going to stream ‘Blue Monday’ now.

-H

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