MCN Commentary & Analysis

The Odd Misogyny of Wonder Woman 1984 (spoilers)

I don’t want to review Wonder Woman 1984. Honestly, it would force me to think about the film too much. Oh… that terrible CGI. Oh… the complete illogic of the mall sequence. Oh… why does the Latino with the preacher wig and the blonde without lines and a fear of carbs have an Asian child?

No. Don’t want to go there. The film is poorly written, directed and FX-ed. But what bugged me about the film is at its core. Why does a movie about a powerful woman who everyone loves so worried about the attention of men? It’s like a two-hour-30 minute-long anti-Bechdel test.

The big theme the film claims, spoken in so many words, is “You took the short path. You cheated, Diana. That is the truth. That is the only truth and truth is all there is. You cannot be the winner because you are not ready to win. And there is no shame in that. Only in knowing the truth in your heart and not accepting it. No true hero is born from lies.”

I bet you had to read that a couple of times… because it is really a bad piece of writing. But I’ll take away that you can’t cheat, you have to grow into winning, and if you know something in your heart but deny it, you are in trouble.

Problem is… that’s not this movie. Diana doesn’t cheat… she doesn’t need to become more mature… she’s a winner before the first frame of the film.

That said… Cut to 1984. We’re in Superman 3. Wacky Lex Luthor type on TV. For some reason, a mall jeweler has priceless antiquities in the back room. But one of the nonthreatening bumbling crooks drops his gun, causing a panic among mall patrons and mall cops. One of the crooks dangles a kid over a third-story space for no logical reason. And zoom… here comes the costumed superhero. Slumming it.

Damn! I started reviewing the movie!

Sorry. Completely senseless sequence of Wonder Woman using her powers, in full costume, on four bumbling TV Batman sidekicks. Oy.

So… Diana 84 is working in antiquities. She is keeping a low profile, wearing Norma Kamaliesque draped outfits of cashmere and satin. She eats alone. Men can’t stop hitting on her.

Meanwhile, Gillie… I mean, uh, Barbara Minerva is wearing 80s office casual and even when she falls on her face, no men will even acknowledge her. Even the woman who just hired her can’t remember her.

Jumpcut: There is a gem that grants you your dreams. (Seriously? That’s Season Three, running-out-of-ideas stuff.)

So what do our women want?

Diana wants her old, long-dead, irreplaceable boyfriend back. Minerva wants to be hot and desired by men like Diana.

Did I mention what the stone in question looks like?

I’m sure some of you will think it is some kind of projection that this image looks like Diana is handling a thick male shaft and some stony balls. But there are a lot of shapes this trigger of all desires could have been.

And while I wish to spend no more time on Maxwell Lord than I absolutely must, when he gets his hand on this item, what happens? It becomes a part of him. Hmmm…

Minerva gets her wish. What does she do? She immediately takes off her skirt and pulls her shirt over her leggings, creating a new skintight outfit tht immediately draws male sexual attention.

Reenter Maxwell Lord (briefly), who starts flirting with Barbara, but when Diana shows up, his focus turns to her. When she says she doesn’t have a TV, he offers her a TV, “19 inches… no strings attached.” Subtle. And Barbara’s jealousy is reestablished with a few frames of film.

Barbara goes shopping. Suddenly she doesn’t need her glasses. Blonder. More blue-eyed. Perfect make-up for a photoshoot. She shops. “Do you think it’s too tight?” “Just right.”

Diana goes to a party she says she doesn’t want to go to, apparently to investigate the stone. Her outfit, as my father would have said, is cut up to the pupik. Every man hits on her. They can’t stop looking at her. Men suddenly feel compelled to tell her they want her. But she was wishing for Steve, not some other guy, so I am not sure how this makes sense… unless this is always how it is for her.

Barbara is also at the party, in her new dress. Maxwell Lord takes her to her office and starts making out with her… but instantly focuses his energy on looking for something in the office. He takes the stone… which for some reason is sitting on her desk instead of its box.

One man, not dressed-up like the others, calls Diana by her name. She takes offense (for the first time in the film). “I wish we had more time.” (A callback to the first film.) In a slow circling DePalma movement, this man becomes Steve Trevor. “But how?” “I don’t know.” Neither does the screenplay. He tells some story about waking up on a futon. WTF? Did he take over this guy’s body and then knew how to find Diana? Suspension of disbelief. Deep kisses in a room full of co-workers and patrons.

They go back to his place. “His” being the body he has taken over. He still seems not to know she is a part-deity. “He’s great. But all I see is you.”

I’ll skip past the obnoxious/cutesy fashion montage. And teaching him how to use an escalator. And the Lasso of Truth, powered by truth, but when she uses it to catch someone or fly, what does truth have to do with it?

Another cutesy series of scenes occurs before the second look at Wonder Woman in full regalia in the film, at 1:21 in the film. Apparently, if she puts on her headband, the whole outfit comes with it. Apparently, the sight of her in the outfit keeps men from shooting machine guns.

But again… so distracted by the film itself.

The movie explains that the stone has destroyed previous civilizations with its power to grant wishes.

Barbara, who has now added a lot of eye make-up and cool clothes to her daily look, doesn’t want to give up her wish after becoming attractive (without much more than a makeover). Apparently she never saw The Wizard of Oz.

Diana doesn’t want to give up her wish either… which would be giving up Steve again.

Again… the badness of this movie becomes an issue. But let’s skip to where Barbara shows up in The White House wearing thigh high boots, a studded biker jacket, ripped tights, and a cheetah scarf-skirt around her lower bits. A truly poorly shot fight ensues.

Barbara is obsessed with Max Lord. Diana is obsessed with Steve Trevor and getting weaker as a result.

Why is this movie about two powerful women obsessed with men and giving their power to those men?

Madness ensues on the street. So Steve Trevor convinces Diana that he needs to go because the world will be better off. She is too weak to do it herself.

Don’t even get me started on her suddenly being able to fly, Just don’t.

This movie has more outfit changes in offices than Working Girl.

And I don’t know what they were smoking when they decided that everyone could now wish via TV.

Nonetheless, big last sequence with Diana in – for no reason – the Asteria armor (with the close-up of Lynda Carter’s eyes… leading to the mid-credit “surprise”). First look at Cheetah, which Barbara has evolved into for some equally unknown reason. She looks very Gozer. Yet another terrible CGI sequence occurs. The armor can take on the world, but Cheetah tears it apart like nothing. Scissoring ensues. Apparently, though she has Diana’s powers, Cheetah can be electrocuted, but Diana cannot.

Anyway… what is the message of all this mess? Being with a man makes you weak? Wanting a man makes you murderous?

“You cannot have it all. You can only have the truth.”

And then… seriously.. we get an entire sequence REDEEMING the the male villain of the film. Maxwell Lord has suffered. He was teased as a child. He had terrible shoes. He knows what it is like to be discriminated against.

But PLEASE! Do we need to redeem the male villain while the women fight it out on the rock quarry?

Wonder Woman saves the world by talking the neurotic lunatic male who is happy to destroy the entire world into giving up his power to save his son. (Kinda.) Barbara/Cheetah is left for dead, though then she seems to be alive when Diana leaves her. She ends up on a bluff, apparently having renounced her wish… but not clearly learning anything.

Again, put aside how much of this makes no sense. Because it is a screaming mess. Diana gets The Wonder Speech closer… spoken right into camera (FUCK!!!), which is basically WW as Jesus… she has sacrificed the most important thing to her for all of us mortals to live.

Heaven spare me ever having to watch the ensuing sequence again. (The kid is wandering on the beltway… no, he’s in the woods… if you just scream a name in Washington (although a second ago you were in a bunker somewhere else), your child will magically show up. And your abused son with give you a DePalma Casualties of War pass for all you have done.

And what of our Wonder Woman who is unsatisfied with her life because she is so obsessed with her decades-long-dead boyfriend that she can’t allow herself any relationship? She stares at little kids like someone with her Lisa DeVito clock running and in the end, is only attracted to the guy she already had sex with when he was inhabited by Steve Trevor, who is wearing her scarf that Steve hated. Oy.

But she can fly now.

If the movie was meant to include a theme of the toxicity of women giving up their power to men, I wish they had taken a more direct route. But mostly, I have no interest in that movie. Not because men don’t suck. But because Wonder Woman has the power from the start. And even Barbara Minerva just needs some more self-confidence.

The whole movie feels like it was developed scene-by-scene, with no one keeping the overall movie story in line. The whole thing is held together by Scotch tape and spit. The notion of building an entire movie around wishes… great if the filmmaker is Lynne Ramsay. Not so good for a mainstream action movie.

Short description of the movie could accurately be, “Two women of accomplishment use a newfound magical power to get laid while a guy who gets the same power uses it to soothe his own ego, destroyed by a lifetime of child abuse.”

Why? Why did they do that?

This film can only ever be redeemed with the third film opening with the breakup of Diana and Steve’s Body Guy in bed, him wearing a Chris Pine mask, but still not making her happy. Emerald Fennell directs.

13 Responses to “The Odd Misogyny of Wonder Woman 1984 (spoilers)”

  1. Lol says:

    This review made watching the movie worth it. The movie was too bad for words, but you figured out exactly the words!! Thank you.

  2. James says:

    The child who plays the son is not Asian, he is an indigenous Latino. Pedro Pascal is a white Spanish Chilean, but the blonde is his assistant not his wife. Pascal could have had an indigenous wife to father the kid.

  3. EB says:

    This is the most spot on review of this movie. You put all my thoughts into words. Watching WW pine over Pine was disgraceful….

    The one part I think you failed to address id given how controversial the casting of Gal Gadot was for showing it in Arab countries, stereotyping aarabs and the Middle East and oil sure did not do ANYTHING to mend that…

  4. Steve says:

    The first movie was awesome, unfortunately I sat through two and a half hours of garbage with hope it would get better. It didn’t (but I enjoyed Lynda Carter’s cameo).

  5. Jason says:

    In my humble opinion I think your review was spot on. Now I don’t know if I would be considered a feminist, but I was raised by 3 generations of strong women, and I have no doubt that they would have found this movie as ridiculous and semi-offensive as I did. I was on my 2nd glass of wine when I started the “movie”. A half hour in I thought, “Is it the film or am I too drunk to watch this?” A full hour in, “Nope not drunk enough, time to break out the whiskey”. First RGB and now this, will 2020 ever end?

  6. Simon Robyn says:

    Terrible terrible film. I was honestly a little offended. We’re scum…I get it…then…wtf? Never again. And WW 2146 can kick rocks, too.

  7. Andy says:

    You hit the nail on the head here. This movie wasn’t just bad but thoroughly incompetent. Thank god Soul was as good as this was bad.

    The escalator bit just bugged the shit out of me. In no universe would a highly trained fighter pilot be the least bit confused (or really, impressed) with an escalator. It’s not a hard skill to learn, small children can figure it out!

  8. Serpico Jones says:

    I wonder what Kathleen Kennedy is thinking right now…

  9. Jon Anderson says:

    Great review! You switched from Steve Trevor to Steve Rogers halfway through your review, which would’ve made for a more interesting movie if it was true.
    [ED.: Fixed! Thx]

  10. Bob Burns says:

    Thank God for HBO Max, a blessing for all the subscribers who didn’t have to waste their money going to a theater to watch WW2. Pre-2020, evil Hollywood publicists would have bs’ed 30 million plus people out to see this thing.

  11. Pete B. says:

    It was head-scratchingly bad in IMAX too.

  12. Pete B. says:

    Someone else pointed this out, and I thought I’d share. When Wonder Woman is learning to fly, she uses her lasso to latch on to a lighting bolt and propel herself. The perfect musical beat there would be to have Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. Which came out in… 1984.

  13. Bob Burns says:

    spotted a Ma Rainey FWI on the NY Times site, and another FWI on AD….. signs of life?

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