Monday, February 1, 2021

Wonder Woman 1984: 2020's Most Misunderstood Film


In just about every way, 2020 was a weird, shitty year. It was also a very busy year for me. Even though we spent most of 2020 collectively in quarantine, my personal life kept me from writing a lot, I spent months not writing a single thing. I did see quite a few movies and while most of the big name films got moved to this year, or possibly beyond, there were still some films considered must-sees that I saw, but didn't have a chance to review. I wanted to write those reviews in the coming days. Get ready for me to dish on things like "Tenet," and "Sonic The Hedgehog" and some other stuff you may like, along with the 2021 movies I am watching as well.

I have had a chance to see "Wonder Woman 1984" twice now. That's definitely allowed my opinion on the film to be clarified. Because it seems like the camps for this film are "It's Good" or "It's The Worst Movie Ever." I have even read some people say that "Wonder Woman 1984" is worse than "Batman vs Superman" and "Suicide Squad." I'm not going to say that I am jumping up and down for this sequel, to but say is its worse than those two films is quite extreme. I hate to use the word I am about to use, because I believe in different opinions and people having their own opinions, but I have I don't know how else to really explain myself. The decisions made by characters in "Wonder Woman 1984" may be silly and corny and strange at times, but they OBJECTIFIABILY make sense. Sorry not sorry. I understand and can relate to the characters in their thinking, something I easily can't say about the characters in the other movies.

If you are going to get mad or tune out when you see a scene in a Wonder Woman swing through the sky, using her Lasso of Truth to catch lightning bolts, then perhaps superhero movies aren't your thing. Wonder Woman has used her Lasso for a huge host of odd things in the comic books. If you can't come to terms with the conventions of a superhero movie, why are you watching them? I don't mean to sound defensive, or like I am on the attack, but I wholeheartedly despise how people can't come to terms with the superhero genre. We suddenly need our superhero stories to be so grimdark and self-serious just because a few "dark" superhero movies made money. There is more silly history in comic books than there is dark history and while you may not like that, it's your problem, not the genres. Here's another example I like. If you don't like horror movies because you don't like being scared, that's cool. To each their own. But if you watch a horror movie anyway, do you get to criticize the horror movie for being scary?

I also have to say that I'm always baffled by the details people choose to get hung up on. So, as obvious as this may come off, "Wonder Woman 1984" takes place in the 1980's. Director Patty Jenkins chose to use scores for music instead of anything iconic from the decade. Some people flipped because of that. Really, because there wasn't enough music that you can easily put on YouTube to listen to instantly wasn't featured in the film is enough to call "Wonder Woman 1984" a flop? Seriously, the worst thing that I hoped wouldn't happen has happened to our pop culture. The hooks of nostalgia are sunken so deep into our bodies that we expect it now in everything.

When I call "Wonder Woman 1984" 2020's misunderstood film, I am not trying to call it a perfect film. It's not. I prefer the first film to this sequel. It's a movie with flaws. It's a movie with strange decisions made. No matter how hard DC tries, or doesn't try hard enough, I don't know if we'll get a well oiled machine of superhero films like we are getting from Marvel. For me, I think enough works with "Wonder Woman 1984" to make it a win. I think it has a very specific message that won me over, and it was quite timely for that matter.

So, it's 1984. Wonder Woman is living among humans, doing good deeds for them any time she can. During the day, she works at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. She befriends a new employee named Barbara (Kristen Wiig) who is never noticed by her co-workers, or men to be honest. Wonder Woman is missing Steve Trevor terribly (Chris Pine) but she trying to make the most of her life now. Barbara and Diana (Wonder Woman's alter ego) study a brown crystal that comes to the Smithsonian one day, which catches the eye of shrewd businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) who has taken an interest in the Smithsonian. When he studies and learns that the brown crystal is an ancient Dreamstone, a crystal that grants wishes. Maxwell Lord wishes to...literally become...the Dreamstone. So he has the power to grant people wishes, which he uses in order to get his business going.

What makes "Wonder Woman 1984" at least more interesting compared to some superhero movies is the "villains." When Maxwell Lord wishes to become the human embodiment of the Dreamstone, he doesn't do it in a mad grab for power, not initially. He's a businessman who is down on his luck, and wants to simply provide for his son. Even if he has to cut some corners in order to do so. When Barbara uses the Dreamstone to be more like Diana. She likes the sudden attention and newfound confidence it brings her and she also likes the superpowers it gives her. Barbara doesn't mean to lose her way, but when you have been invisible all your life, and you find out you are finally visible, it is hard to give up and it can mess with your head. Anytime one of these movies introduces villains you at least understand, they are much richer as a result. 

How is Kristen Wiig's performance? Not as bad as I would have thought. Any time an actor branches out from their comfort zone, it can be exciting. There is definitely no goofiness to Kristen Wiig's performance and it all kind of feels natural. But I wouldn't say it's something that blew my mind completely. This isn't the same level of Heath Ledger playing The Joker, nowhere close. But I think she does exactly what was required of her and brings some natural feeling, especially as Barbara's appearance gets weirder as the movie goes on.

Even Diana can't resist the power of the Dreamstone which leads to one of the weirdest decisions in the whole movie. Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to return from the dead, and he does. Unfortunately, she becomes weaker because of her wish. When people wish for things, they get something taken away. So when Wonder Woman fights, and she gets hit, it hurts. She bleeds every once in awhile. And she figures out that the only way to regain all of her abilities to renounce her wish, but Trevor is her soulmate, so can she do it?

After two viewings, the thing that won me over both times is how shamelessly sincere the movie is. It almost feels like a critique on 2020 as a year, or maybe a critique of 2016-2020. I can't really tell. What I can say is its a judgmental, cynical, greedy world we live in and its amazing how much people seem to care about their needs and wants, worse yet, we criticize  those who simply want to lend a helping hand. So many of us look for individuals and politicians to save us when we can simply make the world a better place. If we really want to make the world a better place, without putting too much effort in at all, we should try to invest in each other, our families, our friends. When it becomes all about everyone else, it becomes all about you. I think its a message we needed this year, and that determined sincerity really won me over.

Say what you want, its okay your mileage varies. Superhero stories are weird and can be kind of silly. "Wonder Woman 1984" isn't without its flaws, and there are some very odd decisions but it still can deliver that one thing you didn't know you needed, but once you got it, profoundly important.

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