Do You See The Truth
SPOILER ALERT WONDER WOMAN 1984 REVIEW
Let me start with my credentials. I am a #wonderwoman GEEK. I have been collecting WW comics since I was about eight years old. I saved up money from doing chores and used my weekly allowance to buy new WW comics at the grocery on Saturdays and occasionally my brother or mother would treat me to the Great Escape comic book store to buy classic WW comics. I have three crates full of WW comics and shelves of the WW graphic novels. I got into Greek and Roman mythology at a young age (pre internet so I had to read encyclopedias and GO TO THE LIBRARY to read up on it) because whenever Diana made her exclamations of “Merciful Minerva!” or “Suffering Sappho!” I needed to know what she was talking about. What always made me love WW, as a Black kid who knew he was different, later knew that as Gay, was how kind she was, how diverse the comics were (Diana has a Black twin Nubia who has yet to appear in the films) and the sheer power of her having virtually all the strength of Superman, but with NO kryptonite, thousands of years of combat training, wisdom, experience, and oh the whole made by the Gods thing.
In fact let me get into this really quickly before we jump into the review. This is a full course meal children, if you are looking for a quick Buzzfeed trip, this ain't for you. I hate the new origin story for Diana. Originally the creator of Wonder Woman, Psychologist William Marston, wrote a female character in 1941 as the embodiment of the women’s suffrage movement and women’s rights. With that he made a brilliant trangressive move, and made Diana a product of two women, Queen Hippolyta and the Goddess of love, Aphrodite. Nightly, for years Hippolyta prayed at the altar for a child to Aphrodite and she heard her prayers over many decades and told her to mold a child out of clay, put it on the altar, and she would bring it to life, as she was tired of hearing her pleas for years. She did that and BOOM, Diana was born, a gift of the Gods to Hippolyta for her devotion and patience, born with super speed, strength, agility, cunning, wit, charm, beauty, grace, Sleeping Beauty on acid basically who can pick up a tank and throw it, dodge bullets, smash guns in her hands and debate Plato.
As Diana is a character of Greek myth, obviously, Diana is analogous to another very famous dust creature of religious story, Adam. We find Diana being made from clay or dust, by two women, as Adam was made from dust by God -who under patriarchy is referred to as the Father and male all throughout the Bible. The triune God with two male parts- the Father and the Son adds a whole other double layer of man sauce to the meal…So from the inception, the character of Diana is a disruptor.
Two women making a child disrupts patriarchy, and that is what the Wonder Woman of the comics is ALL about.
This NEW 52 origin destroys all of that, and makes Dian a child of the sexual assault of the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta and Zeus. Zeus is a disgusting mess being the King of the Gods and is constantly turning himself into animals, wind, water, and insects, to have non consensual sex with animals, women, men, and whatever he wants. To take Diana from being the gift of the Gods by two women to humanity to a bastard child of rape is a complete betrayal of the feminist (and I would say womanist) origins of the character. Sure it gives her an insane power level up in power, but it opens her up to having all these ridiculous half brothers and sisters which the comics have now used to put MEN in the center of her story lines. No really, her half brother is Wonder Man and routinely mansplains to her- IT IS A MESS.
It grinds my gears that male writers have found a way to push, patriarchy more into her story by literally making men a part of her origin in this film and shoe horning more men into her life in the comics…I am not a fan of that. Now children, all of that out of the way, on to the film!
I loved that Patty Jenkins set the movie in 1984. We finally get Diana in the vibrant classic WW colors we have been missing. Don’t believe me? Compare her colors from Batman Vs Superman to this film…
As a singer I have to say one of the things that got me so hype about Wonder Woman in 2017 is her incredible theme music, composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. You know the theme, a driving, piece that screams her arrival. It sounds ancient, and tribal, with trembling strings that warn you vengeance is coming, and a wailing guitar that sounds like a banshee/valkyrie coming to slay you. When her theme music starts, I get chills, it builds such anticipation in the 2017 film. Sadly in 1984, Hans Zimmer has re-orchestrated the theme and removed the guitar which is everything. It is missing the vitality and much of the bite without it. The theme can still be heard whenever she is about to kick ass, however without the guitar it sounds like so much Muzak and that is a big disappointment for me. Music scoring is vital to my experience of film.
We open on Paradise Island/Themyscira, where they are having the Olympics on the set of the most golden American Gladiator. #itwasthemcescherofitallforme
The amazons are very…
…white, with a few exceptions. None of the Black Amazons have lines in the opening games scenes. This is certainly problematic as I mentioned Nubia above. The comics make it very clear that the Amazons are white, black, brown, yellow, red, olive, peach, and on and on. The film seems VERY hard pressed to make it known the majority of Amazons are white. Not good, casting department/Patty. This is the wrong message to send in 2020.
These scenes are gorgeous of course as we take sweeping views of the island and women ride horseback all over it but other than the armor reveal which has a huge payoff later with the special guest star appearance, (those eyes told me who it was from JUMP, I yelled her name when I saw those eyes!)
I do not know why these scenes were needed. We already have the insane training of Diana from the first film, and the Artesia story is told in a flashback later to Steve Trevor so we did not really need these scenes, especially when we are missing vital character development between main characters. This is screen time that could have gone to them. The scenes are a nice touch, but more cotton candy than nutritious.
Kristin Wiig is fine as Dr. Minerva, if not a little too SNL character-ish (by direction I am sure) in the begining. The woman holds an earned PhD and in the comics is brilliant and highly respected. She is not a dolt who is a mess and clumsy etc. It is as if Patty or the script writers simply watched Batman Returns and copied the iconic performance of Michelle Pfeiffer down to the glasses and dropping papers, because dropping papers equals inept apaprently.
If that is the case I have been inept all of my life and maybe that is so…LOL. Look, in the comics Dr. Minerva becomes Cheetah by accident, she is not a doormat and seeking to be like Diana, she is on a research trip and stumbles into a ritual of a lost Amazon tribe and there is a ritual dagger involved and some racist/ethnic connotations (it gets messy children) BUT, she is not some uncool doofus. Wiig deserves better than to have to paint in such broad, ridiculous strokes like she is on SNL and not a major feature film. Wiig does what she can with the fast and short introduction and exposition. Her character is not known at work by the woman who just hired her (a Black woman, yay, in a scene that passes the Bechdel test- of course the Amazon scenes do at jump so that is a plus) and she does not know how to walk in heels, and then is almost sexually assaulted/murdered by a man walking home, when she is saved by Diana. A damsel in distress saved by a woman-this along with the scene where Diana has lunch with her and befriends her, is all we get of their relationship and that is supposed to carry us through the two and a half hour movie. I liked the lunch scene and wanted so much more of these two women getting to know each other, Gadot and Wiig do such a lovely job forming this friendship but we needed more time with them for it to emotionally payoff later for the betrayal of Diana by Minerva as Cheetah.
I will say there was a suspicious lack of Black Amazons, but Jenkins and the casting directors Kristy Carlson, Pat Moran and Lucinda Syson, filled many side characters with POC. Sigh…this is not progress but we are in the room. I hate even having to say that in 2020, we are so past getting the “opportunity” to be in the room.
There is a really odd moment that seems very tacked on that is supposed to show what a good heart Dr. Minerva has as she brings a hot meal to her favorite local Black homeless man who, LOOK is smart because he is homeless but reading Waiting for Godot. Her smug look of self satisfaction also sucks.
LAWD, it is cringy as it is so obvious in throwing another Black body onscreen that has no agency and is nothing but a device so he can then see Minerva later about to curb-stomp a white man, that he then has to attend to…(which, let’s face it in 2020 the police would arrest the Black character for beating the man.) No way that drunk white man, who clearly harrasses women is going to tell them a white woman did that to him. The whole plant and then payoff of this Black homeless male character did not sit okay with me at all.
There is no reason (other than white hegemony/gaze) Minerva or Maxwell Lord need be white, Trevor either to be honest. Though if Steve Trever were Black I think white women would have gone on strike…speaking of Steve, let us move on
Patty Jenkins gave us all the man eye candy we needed from Steve, sometimes shockingly so for a movie to take children to, I think…
We get a LOT of booty shots of Steve, right in the center of the frame also…
The delicious assets of Chris Pine aside, seriously there is far too much of Steve and Diana in this film. This is my biggest critique of the franchise actually. It makes me very angry and I am sure Marston is spitting fire in his grave that a man has been made so essential in Wonder Woman. I am just going to put it like this:
WONDER WOMAN IS OVER ONE THOUSAND YEARS OLD, STEVE AINT THAT SERIOUS TO HER.
Amazons are lesbian and/or pansexual, Diana has had many lovers. Steve is not the be all-end all in the long life of the Amazon in the comics and the fact that heterosexual romantic love takes up so much space in this film is opposite the very queer and sex postive nature of the character. It also just screws her up too as there are so many times in the script she has to look back to see Steve is safe and then gets sucker punched/attacked/shot. I also found it interesting the writers had to find yet another way to make Diana need Steve by taking her powers down/away so he actually has to fight and save HER. This is also a male gaze problem Lynda Carter faced in the tv show as they wrote in a non comic book line feature of WW, that she had a magic belt that gave her all of her strength, so if any man removed her belt, she was powerless. The whole wishing stone/Diana loses her powers story line echoes back to the issue of the tv show. Male writers just cannot fathom a woman more powerful than a man, so they have to find a way to take away her power and make WONDER WOMAN a damsel in distress, needing to actually be saved by Steve Trevor, the very picture of straight white blonde haired, blue eyed patriarchy.
Pedro Pascal does a great one note job of Maxwell Lord as is required of him. The parallels are obvious, especially a pretty scary white house scene considering 45 has 22 days left in office, I hope he does not get any ideas…
Pascal actually breaks my heart at the end of the film with his son,
who just wants his father to love him. The acting from everyone in this film is stellar, it is the lack of real estate in script zoning that traps them at times. More Minerva and Diana Prince, less Steve, and I think the film would have been another A for me. Professor Flood gives this film a straight B minus, the dialogue is good, the cinematography is fantastic, the visuals of chaos at the end of the film feel like they were added on in post production, because it feels so 2020 and spot on in terms of the (well earned) hysteria of the pandemic. The costumes are on fire, but it is the curation of the scenes that gives me frustration and some troubling tropes that need to go that lower the grade for me. Also the odd choices of when to go off script from the comic seem to always lean towards sexism, male hegemony, for instance in the comic, Diana snaps the neck of Maxwell Lord, she does not lay helpless, merely waiting on him to do the right thing. There is a third film that has been greenlit based on the box office return so that makes me psyched.
At the end of the film there is a beautiful job of writing in the speech Diana gives. This is a beautiful way to go out of 2020 into 2021 and this really makes the movie above average with that B grade for me. Here is the text:
The truth is enough. The truth is beautiful.
You’re not the only one who has suffered, who wants more, who wants them back, who doesn’t want to be afraid anymore, or alone, or frightened, or powerless, because you’re not the only one who imagined a world where everything is different-better finally.
A world where they were loved, and seen, and appreciated, finally.
This is why I love Diana, who is armed only with a weapon that compels truth.
At the end of 2020 ask yourself, do you see the truth?