Some Thoughts on Wonder Woman 1984
by Travis Hedge Coke
I enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984 more than Wonder Woman (2017) and I liked Wonder Woman. I didn’t love 1984, but I enjoyed it.
There are aspects of the movie that take on new meanings with outside knowledge and it would be impossible for me to feign naivety to try to enjoy it in some farce called “more purely.” But, it’s also true that I am not knowledgeable, either, when it comes to some of these confluences. I can interpret Gal Gadot’s politics or Patty Jenkins’, as surely as I can interpret the social politics or military stance of the stars of Soul or the director of New Mutants, which is to say, I can speculate. I can only speculate.
Children were deployed beautifully and with commercial savvy. Pedro Pascal’s blond hair is inspired, both as reference and character work. The cinematographer goes above and beyond the call. The set dressers went all in.
The movie would have used more Etta Candy, but couldn’t all movies? Films with women leads do not need to balance screentime between men and women or character rosters with one man of equal presence for every woman. That should have gone out of style by the Eighties.
Is this film set in the Eighties to critique the decade or to revel in a commercial version of it? How much Christopher Reeve’s Superman, vague Red Dawn, and Eighties Indiana Jones can be slotted in uncritically?
Wonder Woman 1984 is about today and tomorrow as much, if not more than it is about yesteryears. There is nothing wrong with understanding the movie as about things in the year 1984, but as with the George Orwell novel, you’d be missing a lot of resonance and use.
I am told by some that it is a mistake to look for politics in these movies, but if you name your film after an Orwell novel, you are asking to be appraised as a political theater.
If you choose to also make that explicitly a children’s film, well, 82% of Steven Spielberg and 96% of George Lucas’ output seems to have floated that way without outrage. Especially their work in the Eighties.
Pablum can kill. Sugar can carry poison. Delicacy can be served by an untrustworthy hand.
I could go on at length, and I honestly don’t know how worthwhile that would be, so I am limiting this to a listicle. (We can talk about internalized sexism, film as propaganda, and the heterodyning of nostalgia, conservatism, and spectacle when the movie has been out long enough every scene isn’t a spoiler).
And, so, we stumble forward…
* That mid credits scene is not only a tip to fans, but a beautiful coda about hope and moving on with your life.
That might be the smartest moment of the movie.
* Pausing your movie to advertise other movies is not world building. Wonder Woman 1984 would not be a better film if they flashed around the world to show us what a fifteen year old Bruce Wayne is up to, or a Plastic Man who may get a movie someday.
* Steve Trevor has a very plot relevant reason for being in the film, but also has more development than any love interest in any Batman movie ever made.
* I would have watched this movie Just for Kristen Wiig’s character, her performance, that arc. That does not mean I needed more or only her performance in her arc. I think it was wonderfully embedded in a movie that is stronger for having it.
* The politics are screwy, but they are no more screwy than an Iron Man movie. Yes, I know what the wall was about, but I don’t think that was a particularly good idea put into the movie. Yes, I understand the concept of consent, but y’all are still cheering at Tony, and at Pepper, “taking out the trash.”
* The fireworks scene was funny. But not, haha, funny. God Bless America, our home and native land! looms over and beyond the characters’ in-world reaction.
Jets, tanks, fireworks all aim at the same goals. They couldn’t get through this movie without jarring odes to Americana, pap patriotism, or militarism.
* People are upset because Max Lord’s son looks mixed. Pssst: Max Lord’s son is mixed.
Many of the same people are upset that Pascal is in the movie at all, getting his Latin-ness all over the role. Someday they’re going to figure out Lynda Carter and it’s going to kill them.
Surely there was brought dodgy ethnic caricature?
* So many people should have been cut checks for the comics work that inspired this film. Alex Ross is one of those, but so is the family of Joye Hummel, the first woman to write Wonder Woman and her second regular writer of all time.
* I’m glad they put it on HBO Max and I hope that theaters continue to thrive and exist, but also that box office as a measure of anything other than just ticket sales dies, dries up, and blows away. We are long past where a film lives and dies by its theatrical showings first week’s gross.
* It probably helps that the last newish American superhero movies that I watched worthy incredibly racist and pretty tonally flat New Mutants and yet another failed attempt to make it all the way through Avengers Endgame.
And, that it hit its third act and denouement with heart and skill.
Some Thoughts on Wonder Woman 1984
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