Movie Discussion: WW84
Warning! This entire discussion contains spoilers for WW84.
Diana must contend with a work colleague and businessman, whose desire for extreme wealth sends the world down a path of destruction, after an ancient artifact that grants wishes goes missing.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins (story by), Geoff Johns (story by), Patty Jenkins (screenplay by), Geoff Johns (screenplay by), Dave Callaham (screenplay by), William Moulton Marston (based on characters from DC Wonder Woman created by)
Actors: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
Release Year: 2020
Scott Hardie | December 26, 2020
More quick thoughts:
- The only time that the special effects didn't work for me was in the White House action sequence, where the greenscreening of actors was too obvious. I don't know why I noticed it then and not the many other times it must have happened; something about the bright light perhaps.
- Given the movie's progressiveness towards its female lead, I was initially surprised that the president wasn't played by a woman or a person of color. Then I remembered that this was set in the mid-eighties. So, was that supposed to be Ronald Reagan? He's just credited as "POTUS." If that was supposed to be Reagan, it was not a terribly accurate impersonation. Maybe that was deliberate.
- Now that we're voting on the best movies of 2020, I thought this might finally be a year with zero superhero movies on the final ballot, or at least on my ballot. But Kelly wanted to see this on Christmas Day, and I have certainly dragged her to enough superhero movies over the years that I wasn't going to decline or make her wait a week for the sake of a silly little Internet vote. So, I guess our next shot at a year without superhero movies will be, what, around 2045 or so?
Evie Totty | December 28, 2020
Holy smokes! I wish I could think of a bunch of stuff to say. I'm always in awe of your reviews, Scott.
Well. The first problem I had was that I was not in a movie theater. And since I'm technically homeless - I do not have my own room to escape to to watch something uninterrupted. [side note: Grammarly does NOT like those two tos there]
That said - not being able to watch the movie all the way through with no stops certainly colored my opinion of it. I might like it better in a dark room with no interruptions.
The short version: it had great potential, but the end was way too fast and disjointed. You mentioned the deus ex machina of the kid being right there within earshot. What I noticed was that not only was he able to escape wherever the fuck he was on Marine One without being detained, but he was on Marine One.
I totally agree with you about moving on. And it had been nearly seven decades, as they moved her debut to WW1 rather than WW2. And then there is the 'Handsome Man' whose body they used and abused. Of course, I feel horrible about my own sexism regarding this, but I read an article today where it discussed where he was not able to give consent (along with another scene in the Netflix show Bridgerton where the roles were reversed) and how were it a woman who had been taken over and... that happened, all hell would have broken loose. I'm very ashamed that it didn't even occur to me. Perhaps because of the movie magic, they performed so we saw Pine rather than the Hallmark Movie Guy? (Yeah keep telling yourself that, Evie - no, it still wouldn't have occurred to you) And I'm upset that it even happened.
The boy: didn't he make a wish to have his daddy come to him, like ... multiple times? And nothing happened? Although that could explain why Lord was able to go directly to him and maybe even his new attitude /shrug. But if that's the case - what's the twist on the wish? Surely not his father going to jail - he would have regardless.
The invisible plane: Yeah, that was convenient. Come on. Was R2D2 there too?
Riding the lightning: I thought it was slick when she did that and I justified it to myself because of the Zeus in her.
The armor: They showed Asteria holding off an army of men in that armor and it was still pristine when Diana put it on. Sure she could have gotten some dents out of it, but for the most part, it was a perfect specimen. Yet Cheeta tore the wings to shreds in seconds? Though I do have an explanation for that as well - since she's 'like Diana' that means she's a demi-god. She'd already shown her strength prior, but still. I imagined that armor being much like Beskar. After all - wouldn't Ares have been among those who she was holding off?
Barbara showing up at the White House: yup - what the hell was that?
Time travel: Of course, I have no idea what the actual timespan was that the movie covered, but ... wasn't she in Egypt when she called Barbara and said she'd meet her at that dude's place? And there were other apparent wormhole moments throughout the movie.
I was really irked about Diana being a little bitch about losing Steve. Yes, she's allowed to and is supposed to be upset The delivery of it was just weak to me. Maybe I just expect more from our superheroes?
Just like you, I was also 'what the hell?'-ing about the broadcast. He specifically made a point to touch the people before and now somehow Willy Wonka gets involved? I guess?
Ohoh And what the hell happened to the stone? if he recinded his wish - shouldn't the stone have Jumanji'ed somewhere? Or are we just going to 'soul stone' it away?
Chris Pine: I had already liked him: I had a Star Trek Wallpaper of him on my company PC for at least two years, if not more because I liked him in that role so much. But I gained a huge amount of respect for his abilities in the first Wonder Woman. When he came to accept his fate, the range of emotions on his face was just incredible. I lost it. Very underrated. He was magnificent in Hell or High Water and now that I'm thinking of it, I should catch I am the Night.
Highlight: Seeing Lynda Carter in the mid-credits. (And the one advantage to being home - I was able to fast-forward to it). Here's to hoping she has some sort of role in Wonder Woman 3 - which has already been greenlit with Jenkins at the helm again.
Scott Hardie | December 28, 2020
Marine One: Yes! Great point! By the time of his return flight, Lord and POTUS both denounced their wishes, so Lord no longer had any authority. He should have been arrested immediately while still on the island.
WW2: Right! I forgot the timing of the original. My bad.
Body Swap: I don't know why they even needed Steve to inhabit another person's body. I cannot think of a single thing that it added to the movie that was worth keeping. Just have Steve return in his own healthy body. An Egyptian wall appeared out of nowhere; there's no law of conservation of matter to worry about by having Steve's body re-added to the world.
Time Travel: I think the fast trip from Egypt to meeting Barbara was due to the invisible jet. They had a private supersonic aircraft at their disposal. I don't know how they got more fuel, as that stuff's not exactly cheap, but maybe it had enough for a round trip to Egypt?
The Stone's Fate: I hadn't thought about that. I suppose if the stone did reintegrate, it would have done so in Lord's office, and by then he would have been smart enough to dispose of it.
Evie Totty | December 28, 2020
The Stone: It just occurred to me that it wasn't the stone that was important as much as it is the ring that was around it? Another stone could possibly be made with it. But again. This will never be revisited.
Just looked up flight times from Egypt to DC: roughly 12 hours. Seems they got there in like two or three hours? Certainly faster than twelve. Unless I just totally forgot and the meeting was the next day instead.
Erik Bates | December 29, 2020
After the movie and seeing the stylized WW84 again, I started thinking that maybe there is a double meaning behind it? They did nearly start a World War in 1984.
As for Lord finding his son, while he was being truth lassoed by Diana, I though I heard him say "I see my son" so may be he knew where to take Marine One to find him? Though him having the ability to commandeer Marine One is still questionable.
Did Barbara get two wishes? The original stone, and then the Lord stone? Is that how it works? I'm confused.
I was really hoping that the invisible plane would show Barbara and Steve sitting on nothing while flying through the air. Major disappointment.
Scott Hardie | December 29, 2020
Aha! "I see my son" explains that, I guess. That must have been one crazy-fast supersonic helicopter to get from an island somewhere at night to Washington, DC in the day before the kid could run off.
Yeah, my take was that Barbara kept her original wish on the stone, losing the wish she gained via Max. But it was hard to tell in that final shot of her.
Evie Totty | December 29, 2020
Barbara did not get two wishes - Lord passed some of his 'consequences of others' wishes' to her: anger and prowess. So really she only lost what was rescinded. So if some people kept theirs that had flowed to her, she still has some Cheetah too.
I also wanted to see them sitting on nothing!
Scott Hardie | December 29, 2020
Kelly made a great point: Where were the 80s songs? The soundtrack should have been full of them. Too predictable maybe, but more fun that way.
Erik Bates | December 29, 2020
Good call on the music. Captain Marvel used the 90s music expertly. They could have done the same with WW84.
Evie Totty | December 30, 2020
DC doesn't roll like that. Was it Danny Elfman at least?
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Scott Hardie | December 26, 2020
Here's just a big disjointed pile of spoilery thoughts after seeing this last night:
- Ok, first of all, that title: This is being marketed as Wonder Woman 1984, but the actual movie calls itself WW84 three times, never once using the longer title. It's usually the other way around.
- I read an appreciation of Chris Pine online (can't find it now to link) which argued that there's a reason for his success, and it's not just his pretty face, because pretty faces are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. It's that he effortlessly balances awe at the impossible with acceptance of the impossible. In roles like Wonder Woman, Star Trek, A Wrinkle in Time, and more, he has to face impossible things, recognize them as such, and get over it quickly and move on. His Steve Trevor functions much like Thor's Jane Foster, the lens through which the audience sees the hero: We must accept very quickly that this person is impossibly powerful but also very moral and thus can be entrusted with that much power; if Steve (or Jane) trusts the hero, then we must too. Pine doesn't get enough credit for this very subtle thing that he's good at.
- There are a lot of dumb movie moments here. Like Max Lord's helicopter setting him down in D.C. and him calling out for his son and the boy just happening to be within earshot, after wandering around an entire major city. Like the children playing in the desert street despite the caravan of vehicles bearing down on them, which is such a cliche that it's probably in Ebert's little movie glossary beside fruit cart. Like Barbara knowing to show up to the White House at the exact moment that she needed to intervene on Max's behalf. Like the historical aircraft at the museum still being parked there with their full tanks attached and full, and like Diana being able to magically turn the jet invisible at will (good joke about the lost coffee mug aside), both in service of introducing one of the character's dumbest concepts to the movies, despite it not being necessary for the story whatsoever; the characters could have just bought tickets on an overnight commercial flight and accomplished the same outcome. (Flying through the fireworks looked cool, but is also dumb in its own way, for not being a wise place to take a fueled-up plane or a pilot still grappling with the new controls.) But the dumbest thing in the whole movie had to be the concept of the satellite particles "touching" everyone on Earth at once, allowing Max Lord to activate his powers with everyone on Earth simultaneously; that's a stretch even for a movie that plays fast and loose with its own internal logic. I guess I could buy Diana remembering a magic spell that she used only once 50 years ago, but a satellite's "particles" counting as "touching" their human recipients? What the fuck? That's not how physics works. That's not how satellite television technology works. Even if the particle stream reaching every TV broadcast station in the world could be "touched," that wouldn't include the public airwaves over which the signal would then be broadcast, let alone the light emanating from the TV screens onto the audience; there's no way for that light to return to sender. It's just... Ugh. I just have to give up. Superhero movies used to be full of really, really dumb ideas like this, like the Joel Schumacher Batmans that just had no basis in physical reality at all, and it's painful in 2020 to have a throwback like this. (Diana using clouds and lightning and miles-away planes to propel herself through the air was also dumb, but the free-flying sequences were so dreamlike and cool that I'm willing to give them a pass.)
- Despite all of that, I have to say, the climax with Max Lord was the best part of a really satisfying storyline to me. I'm a sucker for overt moral challenges in good-vs-evil movies like this, where people who think they have clear moral boundaries discover weaknesses within themselves, and thus Diana's dilemma with Steve (and the fact that she made the right choice instead of finding a cheat or shortcut, thanks foreshadowing prologue) really hit a home run for me. In the finale, Max became this living, breathing engine of moral challenge, forcing everyone alive to take a stand, and that made even the tiniest bit players with one line of dialogue interesting; seeing regular folks grapple with the consequences of their most immediate wishes was fascinating to watch. I cannot believe that billions of people would all, 100% of them, renounce what they wished for, but I can buy that enough of them would do so to turn the world back to normal. (Unless Max renouncing his own wish was enough to undo all of them? Maybe that was it.)
- Speaking of Diana's dilemma, I do think that she made the right choice, but I wish that it had been handled a little differently. I would have preferred if she had taken this occasion to get over Steve, to accept that he's dead and gone forever and to move on with her life. It's frankly a little depressing that she's still clinging to the memory of a brief love affair after four decades. That would have meant growth for the character. Instead, Diana at the end of this movie is the same person she was at the beginning, and that's not how it should go.
- Here's something else that I didn't buy: Max Lord's ending, where he not only renounces his unquenchable need for success, but also accepts the love of his son. I get it, the movie wrote itself into a corner and there was no other ending for him (they couldn't kill him without rending the rest meaningless, and they couldn't kill off a kid, so he had to become a repentant loving dad), but it really felt off. Part of that was that he was clearly a disinterested father earlier; his cruelest moment is when he shoves his child away when the boy is about to make a magic wish to spend more time with him. And part of that is the deep psychological need he has to "succeed;" throughout the movie, he cannot ever have enough or be satisfied with what he has, no matter what. So I do not think Max Lord should have had a happy ending, but I think the movie had no choice but to give him one. It did not work for me at all.
- Also, why did Barbara not get an ending? Her ending is a brief shot of her watching the moon, and that's not enough. I guess she lost her full Cheetah powers (though apparently kept her initial pre-Max wish to look hot? I couldn't tell in the poor light) and that's a bit of resolution, but it doesn't show what she has learned or changed about herself at the end of these events. She was too big of a character and we saw too much of the story through her eyes for her to just disappear at the end like that; she wasn't just a mere plot device that could be forgotten once her work was done. We deserve to know more about her.
- I really regret doubting the casting of Kristen Wiig in this. When I heard the news, I thought she seemed too old for the part; I think of her as being part of Will Ferrell's generation of SNL cast members. (I'm not a regular viewer of that show; only now looking it up online do I see that their tenures did not overlap.) I also thought of her only as a comedic actress and it was hard to imagine her as an action-movie super-villain. But she was really good in the part, and I read online that she was Patty Jenkins's first choice. If Pedro Pascal at 45 can be a villain in this and an action hero in The Mandalorian (not doing his own stunts, but believably playing a character who does big action-hero stuff), then Wiig at 47 can definitely play this. It was sexist of me to think otherwise and I really regret my bias.
- Given the cacophony of mocking criticism that greeted Cats last Christmas and its terrible CGI cat-people, the filmmakers behind this movie had to be shitting bricks over how audiences would greet the final form of Cheetah. They pulled it off, I think, but not by much. Hiding her in shadows and never giving us a long, in-focus, full-body look at her was telling about the filmmakers' confidence in their CGI creation. Lots of credit to Kristen Wiig for what must have been painful makeup for those close-up shots.
- One of the worst things in the deeply stupid Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the underwritten Jamie Foxx Electro subplot. Basically: He's lonely, he briefly meets Spider-Man and gets a "hey," he imagines that Spider-Man is his best friend, he becomes angry when his "best friend" Spider-Man tries to stop him from zapping people in Times Square, he becomes so enraged that he tried to zap all of New York City. It's even dumber than that sounds. So, when this movie started out and Kristen Wiig played Barbara as hopelessly nerdy and bumping into the sophisticated Diana, I dreaded a repeat, but Barbara's story was mostly played well. She had an inner life and a dignity and a moral agency that Electro never did. Kelly complained about Barbara's subplot being too simple, and it was, but it could have been far, far worse.
- Kelly hated a lot of moments in this movie, and most of all might have been the electrocution of Cheetah. Kelly took it at the time as Wonder Woman murdering her enemy, which felt like a repeat of Man of Steel's awful misinterpretation of what Superman stands for. A freshman philosophy major could argue that it might have been in the world's interest for Diana to commit that murder (it's a superhero trolley problem), but the movie let her off the hook by letting Barbara survive, disoriented but apparently unharmed. I do not understand the physics of how that was supposed to work, but I think I've complained enough about physics in this movie.