Review of “Wonder Woman 1984”

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Promotional image for the film Wonder Woman 1984

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I finally found the movie Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) as a DVD at my local public library and saw my opportunity to view and review it.

I’d read quite a few reviews already so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. There were a lot of people disappointed at the “woke” aspects of the film, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

First of all, as always, Gal Gadot totally owns the role of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. She deserves the highest praise for her portrayal of the character and for bringing a truly iconic hero to life.

I felt a little sorry for Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva, especially at the film’s beginning when she was so beneath everyone’s notice. No, not just men’s but even Diana didn’t warm up to her at first. It was cringeworthy watching the stereotypically shy, socially inept, yet highly intelligent person trying to make her way through life.

Equally difficult was watching Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, all swagger and bluster on the outside, but in fact, nothing but a broken, poor, bullied kid who grew up wanting to accomplish great things to overcome his past…and to fail miserably.

I know the beginning scene with Diana as a child (played by Lilly Aspell) competing against all of the adult Amazons seemed ridiculous. In fact, their entire society and especially raising one little girl in a sea of perpetually adult and immortal women inevitably summons a lot of cultural and moral issues, but I’ll set that all aside.

Yes, I wanted the kid to win, but I knew she wouldn’t and I knew that she would learn some sort of lesson. Naturally, that lesson would be recalled later in the film and somehow be used to “save the day.” Sorry, but I’ve seen that play out in a million movies and it’s always overdone.

A lot of what happened in the beginning and middle of the movie seemed that transparent and cliché as well, and Diana’s second appearance dominating the big screen (well, small screen thanks to the pandemic) deserved better. I’ll lay this one on the laps of the producers, director, and writers who should have known better. Nothing replaces good writing.

Then comes along this second-hand “Infinity Stone” that grants wishes. Fallen into the hands of the FBI following a failed heist, they loan it to the Smithsonian where both Barbara and Diana work, and Barbara is supposed to identify it.

How anyone reasonably figures the wish giving out at the movie’s start is insane since the first wish was made as a joke and the reward was a cup of coffee. Since wishes not only give but take away, I wonder what the coffee drinker lost? We never know.

After all these decades, Diana still pines (pun intended) for her lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and while holding the artifact, wishes him back, which would cost her dearly as time goes on. Shy, introverted, and sexually harassed Barbara wishes she were like Diana (apparently the stone knew of Diana’s true abilities even if Barbara didn’t), able to defend herself, to be confident, and to be sexy. Unfortunately, in her case, it takes away all morality and even her humanity.

Lord has been searching for the artifact for years, and especially now when his “ponzi scheme” is falling down around his ears, he needs a miracle. The only worthwhile thing in his life is his young son Alistair (Lucian Perez) and in Lord’s ambition to become everything, he almost loses him.

I know that people have seen this film as Donald Trump (Lord) meeting President Ronald Reagan (Stuart Milligan), both depicted as corrupt, greedy men who don’t care about human lives or the world as long as they get “more.” The movie shows that such men (and political parties) are evil and will destroy the world.

It was a cheap shot, but as I’ve been reminded, a cheap shot is better than no shot at all.

Other reviewers have covered the highlights and the downfalls of this movie, but it never really revealed itself until the final scene between Lord and Alistair. The world has just come within moments of global nuclear destruction. Diana convinces Lord to renounce his wish to bodily possess the power of the artifact and that saves everything (except the world still looks trashed).

Lord tells his son the truth, perhaps for the first time in the child’s young life. Alistair says his Dad doesn’t have to do anything to make him proud because he loves his Dad anyway.

The point of this movie, at least for me, is that it’s about redemption. It’s about someone who was ready to throw it all away for absolute power, and then realized there was something he already had that was worth a lot more.

This is where the analogy of Lord as Trump disintegrates completely. The real-life Donald Trump is still full of bluster and arrogance, while Max Lord learned a painful and valuable lesson and let it change his life for the better.

That was Diana’s lesson. After Steve’s death, she had convinced herself she would never be able to love another man. That somewhat goes back to how her unusual childhood would have made loving a man seem strange and even bizarre. Her powers all but gone because of her wish, she has to give up, not absolute power, but the hope of love and the one man who embodied it. He wasn’t real anyway since somehow Steve “possessed” the body of another man (which brings up just a ton of moral issues that Diana and Steve overlooked and the writers and director completely ignored).

Diana’s lesson both for herself and Lord was that the only reality that matters is truth, and that’s what they both faced. That’s what saved them and saved the world.

Poor Barbara/Cheetah didn’t learn that but amazingly she survived electrocution in her battle with Diana (and apparently Wonder Woman is totally immune to electrocution). It’s unclear if Lord renouncing his wish turned her back or if she somehow finally made the decision herself. We don’t see her in the aftermath of all of this, but having experienced confidence, I’m hoping she managed to hold onto a little.

After all, everyone deserves a shot at redemption.

The film ends at Christmas time when Diana is walking among the crowds in the snow. Everyone seems happy and the world is a wonderful place. She runs into “Handsome Man” (Kristoffer Polaha), the person who Steve possessed for some period of time (I wonder what the guy thought about the few days when he didn’t have a memory, show up for work, or otherwise “disappeared?”). They have a casual conversation. He doesn’t hit on her (I was afraid he might which would have totally ruined the moment), and then they both move on to a brighter and more hopeful future.

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