A Few Thoughts on Wonder Woman 1984

I never read the comic, but occasionally watched the 1970’s TV show. Silly at times, but enjoyable. My recollection of the 2017 movie was that it started strong, but had a tiresome battle with lots of things blowing up at the end.

Spoilers ahead.

Wonder Woman 1984, directed by Patty Jenkins, is not without problems. This New Yorker article covers many of the issues well, and helpfully explains, for folks like me, that the villains are canonical (and perhaps not appropriate to the period setting). And much can be said about the odd manner in which Steve returns. It is inconsistent with the other uses of wishes in the film, and that only draws attention to the ethical questions and concerns. It could have been handled much better, along with several other plot holes. (Given the living arrangements of Wonder Woman’s three creators, having Steve and his host body share consciousness would have been appropriate.)

That said, a few things stood out. First, the fashion montage, as Steve models various possible outfits. I’ve read this is over-emphasising the movie’s time setting. I disagree. Amy Heckerling’s 1985 European Vacation has a similar fashion montage, as do other films of the time. In other words, the film montage itself, not the fashions on display, is an aspect of the 1980s. A small thing, but those of us who lived through the 1980s appreciate the apparent concern with representing it faithfully in film style as well as visual appearance. The emphasis on wanting more nuclear weapons is also entirely appropriate to the time.

Of much greater significance: the villains are redeemed, not killed. So many movies create a situation where the hero must kill or be killed. That’s avoided here, albeit clumsily, and the reason may be the comic book origin and that genre’s need to maintain a stable of enemies. I was surprised to learn the death of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman was non-canonical. Regardless of the motivation, the result is a refreshing exception to so many action films.

Another aspect that stood out was Diana’s eventual understanding that Steve could not stay with her. She had to make a difficult decision, and sacrifice something. There are so many films, and books, where the hero achieves everything at minimal cost. Some reviews have suggested her sacrifice should not have been a difficult decision – they were not together long, and their relationship was a long time ago. That is a rather cynical view of romance, as if the strength of love depends on the length of the attachment and how recent it was. More practically, the film established that Steve was missed.

We were prepared for Diana’s sacrifice in part by the prologue sequence, which also established the moral tone of the film. And not many action films have a moral deeper than “good guys win.”

Finally, the sub-plot of Steve’s return reminded me of Casablanca – your old love comes back, but everything is different and you cannot stay together. It’s a lovely time, and a lovely reminder of what was, and you enjoy it and carry on. Notwithstanding my penchant for reading and writing romance novels where the emphasis is on happy every after, there’s something deeply romantic about love that continues when the people aren’t together. I’ll have to try and write that someday.

Categorized as Film, Reviews

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.

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