Movie Review (WONDER WOMAN 1984)

I finally watched WONDER WOMAN 1984 (released here in the U.S.A. last Christmas). I was prepared to be unimpressed, annoyed, confused, and disappointed. While the movie is certainly not as good as its 2017 prequel, which had a far more archetypal feel to it, I thoroughly enjoyed this newest installment of Gal Gadot starring as one of my favorite comic book super hero(ine)s. She looks as beautiful and poised as ever here, amidst a hair-brained storyline and fun 1984 time period props and settings. The latter two things were nostalgic for me. I graduated from high school that year, so I felt particularly demographically targeted as a viewer. Back in actual 1984, I admittedly enjoyed wearing clothes in the style of some of the outfits worn by a few of the male characters, including Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (come back from the dead due to some goofy ancient magic). The incidental ‘80s pop music and scenes in a shopping mall had me pleasantly reminiscing.

Comic actress Kristen Wiig is amusing to watch, ramping up the campiness of the film wonderfully (and I love camp). She is a good foil to the often earnest and proper Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. As the character Barbara Minerva when she is in villainess mode, Ms. Wiig is mostly not to be taken seriously (including in her final costume, which made me think of humanoid feline characters in the 2019 box office bomb CATS), except in a particular scene when she first embraces her dark side. That is believable and relatable, not only for many women abuse survivors, I imagine, but for anyone who’s ever been harshly mistreated in some way. Thoughts of revenge are natural to have, even though more people than not know better than to act on them.

There are a few actions that I found to be verging on nonsensical. Wonder Woman develops the ability of flight simply by finally believing she can combined, it seems, with the help of her magical golden lasso. I read some years worth of original Wonder Woman comics and watched the 1970s TV show with Lynda Carter. Nowhere in those narratives of the lovely heroine do I remember her ever having the ability to fly. I suppose the creators of this latest production wanted to make her even more superhuman/goddess-like. Perhaps I’m too attached to the old canon about this character, but I personally found this added on ability to be superfluous, unnecessary. That said, despite this inconsistency with how I’ve always known Wonder Woman to be, I didn’t actually mind seeing Ms. Prince fly because she looked so beautiful and graceful up in the clouds, her long dark hair blowing in the wind. And there’s likely the real reason she was portrayed flying: this was yet another way to showcase her lovely image. It’s all about appearances above all else.

The other occurrence that made little sense was how Wonder Woman’s invisible jet airplane comes to be. This is presented as a last-minute, all too convenient development done with seemingly little thought or effort. More magical powers are added onto the main character, more superfluousness. However, by not describing the actual scene I am referring to, I leave it to viewers to judge for themselves if I am on the mark here or not. Ultimately, it need not matter, since, as I’ve already implied, this film is simply meant to be visually fun and pleasing fluff, not a narrative with deep consistency or sense.

I was able to follow the story without confusion, though I’m sure it helped that I didn’t give the ridiculous, unoriginal plot much thought. I sat back and enjoyed all the slick sets, clothes, music, special effects, and Ms. Gadot’s goddess-like screen presence. The storyline about an ancient magical wishing stone getting into the wrong hands and eventually resulting in worldwide chaos hardly matters. It’s been similarly, repeatedly done in blockbuster movies anyways, very formulaic. This is a thrill-ride piece of cinema — exactly what I figured it would be. That said, I find myself in middle age becoming more of a softie in response to schmaltz and sentimentality, both of which are especially served up in a few scenes toward the end of the show. And that very schmaltz and sentiment redeems the film somewhat out of its often lame and silly narrative. Watching on screen how love and truth overcome crass materialism, narcissism, and unbridled power over others feels timely, encouraging, and refreshingly idealistic in this era of cynicism, selfishness, and lack of honesty by so many. I’ll take these feel good moments— even if unreal and fantastical— where I can, like breaths of fresh air. I’m thankful WONDER WOMAN 1984 could provide some for me. Sometimes, it’s good to just have a bit of mindless fun.

(Note: It’s important to watch the movie well into the end credits in order to see a special treat. At least it was for me and it certainly is/will be for many others.)

2 thoughts on “Movie Review (WONDER WOMAN 1984)

  1. I haven’t seen this film since it was released. I liked it then, mostly because it recalled for me my childhood fantasy superhero play. I have to admit that as a kid I was so deeply devoted to Batman…pretending to be Batman, that is..(with Superman a close second and the Flash a somewhat distant third) that the rest of the Justice League battled evil on my periphery. I relegated the female superheroes to the most distant periphery mostly because I found Batgirl an insult on multiple levels, but also because I didn’t identify as or with females at all. It wasn’t until after raising a child who grew up comic- and superhero-obsessed that my own love of superheroes rekindled. I came to a deep appreciation of Wonder Woman and some of the other female superheroes I’d dismissed (like Ms Marvel/Captain Marvel) and complexified my appreciation for the villains too. I can still eviscerate films for shmaltz and sentimentality and many other cringeworthy cinematic sins, but I’ve always had a sort of thru-line that can dismiss all that when there’s also enough hope and fresh air that does what you say you liked about WW84: “how love and truth overcome crass materialism, narcissism, and unbridled power over others.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful, interesting comments.

      I have heard and read that Batgirl was created on the original BATMAN TV series (1966-1968) for the purpose of diluting the homoerotic subtext between Batman and Robin. If this is indeed the case, I’m not surprised. Even the name “Batgirl” is infantilizing, and the character certainly was infantilized/very childlike/girly on the show. So, yes, I agree, she was an insult on multiple levels. Sadly and frustratingly, the female superheroes in the comics tended to seem like after thoughts compared to their male counterparts, with few exceptions, such as Wonder Woman. She stood on her own very powerfully, at least for me she did. I am encouraged to see some steady increase in female front and center emphasis in more recent and upcoming superhero/ine movies. This may still feel like too slow-going progress for many. And I concur while also holding out hope there will someday be a true balance of gender portrayals in the long-run.

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