1. Whips: As both an experienced Spelunky player and a level 20 masochist, I am deeply concerned with the terrible whip handling in this film. Is it a lasso? Is it a whip? Pick a style. This film looks like a video game with a bad physics engine whenever the Lasso of Truth is in play.
If you’re at a dungeon or party and someone with a singletail wants to have fun and they say “I was inspired by Wonder Woman 1984,” just shout your safeword, immediately.
I give this entire film “One out of Five Whips.”
2. Dinner Dates & Wasted Potential: Look. People like Wonder Woman for various reasons, and I’m not going to rehash the Queer or BDSM history of the character, here, but it’s inseparable from the character. The best part of the first movie was what a butch friend and I called “Lesbian Golf Island,” and while this film opened really limp in that area, it followed with what almost…for a moment…seemed like it was moving towards the funniest “Two women on a date, but not sure if they’re actually on a date” moments in film. It could have gone somewhere – or at least made a joke.
I believe Kristen Wiig is mostly known for her comedic work? I couldn’t tell. Her character had zero development, as if she were comedically spayed as required by Gal Gadot’s contract. Also, having an attractive, thin woman take her glasses off to become “sexy” hasn’t been character development since the racist stereotypes in WW84 were “cool.”
I’m half-tempted to attempt to re-edit a 5-7 minute short film of their courtship/date, because it’s a painful, hilarious, and VERY REAL trope in my Queer community. Can we salvage something from this?
3. Platforming as Filmmaking: IF YOU WANT TO MAKE VIDEO GAMES, MAKE THEM. Nobody wants to watch other people play video games, especially badly made ones. A movie isn’t an open world game on rails with platforming segments. If you don’t play video games, don’t try to make them. This is a whole other rant…but….
4. Fights in Movies are Metaphors: A fight is really just an opportunity for characters to exchange meaningful dialogue or do physical acting that embodies dialogue. This is filmmaking 101, people. Just watch any samurai movie – even with the subtitles off and if you don’t speak Japanese, you’ll get this. I highly recommend Kobayashi’s Saumurai Rebellion or Kurosama’s Yojimbo if you need a refresher. That’s where George Lucas learned it from, and you can too, Patty Jenkins.
A great example of this is how engaging the fight at the waterfall between Killmonger and T’Challa is in Black Panther, versus their staggeringly tedious final battle (with platforming elements). The Wonder Woman versus Cheetah fight is even more tedious, just like the Wonder Woman versus Ares “boss battle” at the end of the first Wonder Woman film was. The only thing missing was health bars and a HUD.
5. This is a Job For Justice Squad: WW84’s junk sale of a plot takes us to the point of a global crisis. Nearly everyone on Earth is suddenly having their wishes fulfilled (more on this in a sec). It’s the 1980s, so nukes are literally flying between the US and the USSR. This A CRISIS ON A SINGULAR EARTH, to borrow a phrase. When your universe has a literal organization of top tier superheroes, they would all play some role in a crisis.
This is what happened in Batman v Superman, which is, in retrospect, at least a functional movie. Batman and Superman are outmatched by an existential threat. Who shows up to make the difference WALKING GODDESS WONDER WOMAN, THAT’S WHO. Repeat after me: “My total nuclear exchange brings all the boys to the yard.”
6. On the Topic of Wishes: When nearly every human being on Earth is suddenly having their wishes granted, every on-screen wish that we see is some absolutely cynical, pathetic, selfish desire. I’m sorry. Yeah, we live in an America where 70 million of our neighbors would probably wish me, you, and anyone with a drop of melanin in their skin to a death camp, but you know what? People aren’t that cynical or hateful. What does this say about Jenkins’ perspective on the universe? Kubrick spent a lifetime making films with the conceit that an essential violence is in our nature, but not a single movie he made was without some sense that our capacity and inclination toward violence is balanced by the complexity of our species.
If you want to make a movie about what happens when everyone gets what they want – that’s kind of a big topic – make the whole movie about that. The conflict then becomes between selfishness and altruism, which would be FASCINATING, if done right. Instead, in the 3rd act of WW84, we’re left hating everyone on the planet, if only because the movie is so cynical and nihilistic as to suggest that we are all, deep inside, absolute assholes. If that’s the case about us, and I refuse to believe that it is, to quote one of my personal heroes, “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.”
7. Supes and WW should GET IT ON: Okay, take a thirst detour with me. I’m not a huge reader of Wonder Woman and Superman, but one of the best scenes in a DC comic was when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes™ GET IT ON in issue 2 of Frank Miller and Lynn Varlet’s bizarro The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Diana saves a broken Superman, and flies him upward into the yellow sun, before the two make love wrapped in his cape, both among the clouds and in the depths of the ocean. “The Earth moved,” to quote Diana’s internal dialogue. It’s absolutely corny, and it’s absolutely a genuine Comic Book Moment™.
Sure, it’s HOT STUFF, but more importantly, it is an amazing moment that shows how set apart Kal El and Diana are from the human beings that they live among and who they struggle to relate to. Diana is not a spinster curator pining away for Her One True Love™, she’s a literal deity walking the earth. The “regular gal” vibe of Jenkins’ take on Diana is utterly tedious and unimaginative – that’s Spider Man’s schtick. I’m not saying that Jenkins needed to borrow from Miller – we’ve had quite enough of that. But with Wonder Woman, you gotta GO BIG OR GO HOME.
8. Yes, Gal Gadot is both a Zionist and a rape apologist. That is old news – lots of the actors in your favorite superhero movies are HOT TRASH (Looking at right at you, Chris Pratt). But Gadot is a block of wood, and being a model does not translate into the sheer physicality that the role demands. Acting is not posing and mumbling flat lines (Looking at right at you, Johnny Depp). There are more qualified actors to do this job, and ones that don’t come with so much anti-feminist baggage that they undermine whatever attempts at feminism might be present in this film, too.
9. I defended what I saw as “the undermining of Patty Jenkins” when I saw the first Wonder Woman in the theater. I really thought that she was a solid director who had been catapulted into a production system with unfamiliar elements and given a budget that wasn’t up to the scope of the film.
All I’m going to say is that with this film, Jenkins has demonstrated that she is absolutely the equal of JJ Abrams, and I appreciate that she doesn’t employ mansplaining as exposition, but she also lacks Abrams’ gift for at least having a lighting and compositional style.