Well, it looks like it’s that time again. What time, you ask?
This second part of “A Writer Watching – Wonder Woman 1984″ feels like a doozy, so I’m going to jump right in.
However, this is the second part of a two-parter, so if you haven’t read part 1 yet, you might want to do that first.
That said, let’s do this . . .
Wonder Woman 1984 (cont.)
- (1:15:04) Barbara murders the gross dude from earlier.
I understand that what I’m supposed to be getting from this scene is that the monkey’s paw is making Barbara evil, but, again, there’s been no build up to her becoming evil. At worst, she’s ignored people when they were speaking to her. To jump from that to murder is pre-e-e-e-etty big, even with her victim being a total scumbag.
What’s really coming through for me is the “Nerd Rage” trope, where a person who’s perceived as weak gets powers and immediately turns evil to get back at the people who persecuted them.
- (1:19:41) Okay. Max Lord goes to Emir Said Bin Abydos, who wishes for control of his land. The monkey’s paw part of our Deus Ex Machina erects a wall around that land, which means his people won’t have access to water.
But isn’t Max Lord supposed to decide the punishment for the wish? Isn’t the blowback for Emir’s wish supposed to be that Max Lord takes his security team?
What I’m getting at here is that this is the point where the rules for Max’s powers get muddled.
- (1:21:58) Diana gets out of her car and starts running after Max Lord’s convoy.
And it looks . . . terrible.
I understand that this isn’t necessarily the writer’s fault, but I will take this opportunity to make a point: it doesn’t matter how awesome your character is; if you write them doing something that might look stupid, there’s a possibility they will look stupid.
And I think this needs to be said because, more than any other genre, Fantasy is full of ‘might look stupid’ moments. For example, “he jumped up and kicked the first bad guy in the face, but also used his face as a foothold. In a second, he was running across all of their faces in a perfect circle, knocking a new bad guy out with every step!” Like . . . Okay. I’m not going to say you can’t write that, but the chances readers will read that and imagine it looking cool are pre-e-e-etty low.
- (1:23:24) Diana gets hit with a bullet, and we’re supposed to realize she’s losing her powers.
But Diana has never once been shot before this.
There was a moment earlier (when she struggled to pull a lock off of door) that hinted at her powers being the price she paid for Steve Trevor coming back.
But I thought the price was that Steve was in another man’s body (but Diana just oddly didn’t care about that).
So, what I’m left to believe then is that . . . Diana did wish for Steve to come back in another man’s body?
Whatever. This movie needed to do a better job seeding Diana losing her powers.
Or, even better, just don’t do the “sequel where the hero loses/gives up their powers” trope, because it’s overdone.
- (1:24:13) Diana flips over a truck that’s behind Max Lord’s vehicle, uses it to propel herself into the air, and . . . lands on the front of Max Lord’s vehicle, facing him. Notice that the movie does not show the mid-air turn necessary to get her into that position. Just a weird, disjointed cut from her falling, facing forward, to her on the hood of Max’s car, facing the opposite direction.
Again, spacing and action execution in action scenes is so goddamn important. If you’re struggling to make a character pull off an awesome feat, just think of another awesome feat for them to do. One that makes sense.
- (1:25:42) I realize this whole fight could be a lesson in spatial awareness in an action scene, but this last moment, where Steve fires a rocket and Diana whips onto it and sails through the air to save some kids ahead of the convoy, re-e-e-e-eally takes the cake. It’s silly, bizarre, and overly complicated (with Steve needing to understand how to fire a rocket out of a military vehicle he’s never seen before and Diana needing to whip the rocket away after getting far enough ahead [but not losing any momentum whatsoever while she does so]).
But, on top of that, another common problem I see in fiction happens at the beginning of this scene; Steve shows Diana a rocket and shouts, “Diana!” and she nods, showing that, yep, she gets what he’s thinking—even though there’s no way she possibly could.
I call this “the Look,” based on D&D players metagaming by giving each other “a look that says I’ll kill the first goblin while you grab the treasure.”
Really? What kind of look? Please explain.
The Look happens in fiction all the time as well, and it’s something to keep in mind because it can get out of hand very easily.
“She gave him a look that said she didn’t buy the minister’s lies,” is totally fine and makes sense.
“She gave him a look that said she didn’t believe the minister was telling the entire truth,” is pushing it.
“She gave him a look that said she knew the minister was going to kill again tonight and that she was going to try and get it out of him right now,” does not make sense.
- (1:29:04) The macguffin being tied to the mysterious downfalls of ancient civilizations is one of the most tired tropes a macguffin can have.
- (1:29:45) Barbara Minerva is in full, post-murder bad guy gear, and I have to say, again, that I feel really bad for Kristen Wiig.
There are a lot of 80’s styles Wardrobe could’ve used to make a woman look cool and evil.
The outfits they gave her in this movie were not it.
- (1:33:46) I just have to take a moment to point out here that I love Pedro Pascal, who does a great job in this moment (when he’s not directed to act like a weird goofball).
- (1:35:44) If I had to pick one scene that I really like from this movie, it’s this heartbreaking moment with Max Lord and his son. Max, a living monkey’s paw, tries to get his son to wish for his own greatness, but his son, who loves him, winds up wishing for his dad’s greatness. Pascal’s reactions really sell how badly Max wants his son to succeed and how hard he takes it when that potential is unwittingly thrown away.
- (1:41:11) Again, zero setup on a Deus Ex Machina—this time, the golden, winged armor Diana will use in the third act.
And I’m sure that the argument can be made that this scene is the set up, but if a story spends 43 seconds setting up flashy armor that only exists to be flashy (and has absolutely no effect on the larger plot), then it’s A) a bad, rushed set up, and B) the armor isn’t worth having in the movie.
And it’s a shame because, man, just imagine if the intro with the tournament had established that the armor would, like, magically manifest on the strongest of the Amazons. Maybe the Amazon who won that tournament has that armor bond with them because they made some crazy sacrifice (like Lynda Carter’s character did). Maybe the Amazon who earned the armor stopped in the middle of the tournament to help another, injured Amazon get to the finish line while young Diana ran past them because she didn’t realize or was too focused on winning (and that’s why she doesn’t win the prologue tournament). I mean, that’s off the top of my head, but what I’m getting at is, ffs, how much cooler would it have been if, after struggling with losing Steve, Diana sacrificed him (and her own happiness) at the end and that’s why the armor came to her. Not just a flashy suit upgrade, but a physical embodiment of her sacrifice that allowed her to fly, like Steve. At the very least, I would’ve been invested in it.
- (1:42:26) Wonder Woman sees CCTV footage of Max Lord’s car driving through Washington D.C.
And, for the millionth time, setting.
How does she have a hook up to CCTV footage in Washington D.C. . . . in the 80’s?
Was there already a complex network of surveillance set up in the 80’s, or did Wonder Woman go around and hook up cameras in different hot spots for years? And, if so, why did she put one here?
Can’t help feeling it would’ve been cleaner to show a news broadcast with a reporter like, “This just in: the President has set aside an important foreign diplomacy meeting to meet with Max Lord.”
Because even if there was a CCTV network in America in the 80’s, that would just make this a classic example of the Stranger than Fiction phenomenon.
- (1:48:04) Steve picks up a sword with the intent to kill Secret Service officers, but Diana says, “No, Steve, you can’t use that,” because of course he shouldn’t just kill people who are under Max’s control (also, how a former American soldier would think of skewering Secret Service with a fucking sword is beyond me–I guess Steve is a Patriot?).
But then, after telling Steve no, Diana throws her insane, razor sharp tiara at their heads, which they only narrowly duck.
She doesn’t even throw it at the lights for cover. She throws it at them.
Diana! If you want to murder them yourself, just say so!
- (1:50:20) I still feel bad for Kristen Wiig. In part because the idea of a villain getting their powers by wishing on a monkey’s paw is interesting—to me. I think if they’d just left it there, that would’ve been pretty cool. I am absolutely sure it’s been done, but I still enjoy the cleanliness of that idea. No science experiment gone wrong. Just a person wishing they could be cool like their friend without knowing that A) their friend had super powers and B) their wish would be granted. I dig it. Especially because it could yield a very interesting mentoring situation gone wrong, maybe with Barbara learning about/going to Themiscyra, being corrupted by the idea that she, a human, is stronger than all of the Amazons.
Unfortunately, this movie hurdles right the fuck over all of that. In this fight scene in the White House, Barb even predicts and counters an attack Diana almost never uses, because this movie wants us to feel like they’ve been rivals for decades (because they have been–in the comics). Gotta love that good ol’ total-lack-of-patience!
- (1:53:01) We get a few lines here from Kristen about how Wonder Woman has “always had everything” and “people like me have nothing.”
The thing is, there is absolutely a conversation to be had about “pretty privilege” and other forms of discrimination (age, weight, color, sex). It’s too bad this movie actually demonizes the awkward nerd, who was genuinely being treated like shit at the beginning of the movie. Because the only thing worse than a nerd is a nerd who’s angry that everyone treats them like shit, amirite?
Fuck this movie.
- (1:53:59) Here, in the same conversation as above, Diana is bloody and bruised, her hair messy.
And, as a fan of a hero getting fucked up over the course of their adventure, I just have to say . . . please, everybody, more of this. Especially if you’re writing a female protagonist. Because, I dunno about everyone else, but I am the kind of feminist who’s ready for his female protagonists to take battle damage. Like, straight up, fuck the male gaze; give me the female superhero who gets fucked up like Tobey’s Spider-Man at the end of their movies.
- (1:55:25) I am a big fan of “shit is going down” super hero stories, where the threat feels palpable. I have to give it to this movie for at least selling me on the bizarre idea that one irresponsible dude being able to grant everyone whatever they wished for would destroy Earth in one day.
- (1:57:35) Diana tells Steve that she’ll never love again, but Steve tells her, “That isn’t true,” and can we please get more male characters who say extremely healthy shit like this, please?
I still hate the entire Ghost Steve situation, but this one line is the kind of example more male characters need to provide.
- (1:58:00) Also, Wonder Woman saying, “I can’t say goodbye” to you, and you replying, “You don’t have to. I’m already gone,” is just so good. Like, yes, sure, BDE. But more important, saying the perfect thing to get someone to revoke the wish that’s keeping you alive is incredible.
Seriously, I always try to predict what characters are going to say in a movie (it’s just a bad habit I have), and I was actually surprised by that line.
- (1:58:29) First, props to Gal Gadot for really selling this entire ordeal.
Second though . . . you can just renounce your wish from anywhere, without touching the monkey’s paw?
So . . . what’s the point of the monkey’s paw then? They’re supposed to punish you for being covetous, but if you can just cancel at any time, that means you can opt out of the punishment after getting the reward (if you’re smart). For example, I can be like, “I wish to be able to safely teleport anywhere I want.” According to this movie’s logic, I’d then have that power for, like, 3 days before anything bad starts to happen, and when it does, I can just say, “I renounce my wish,” and be fine. You could make the argument of, “Well, you would lose whatever you got with that power,” but does that include experiences? Cause I’d spend one day in Japan, another in New Zealand, a third day wild carding (like, on the moon and shit). This movie doesn’t indicate that people lose the memories, so I’m golden. Gimme that shit! Where’s it at!?
- (1:58:58) I can’t believe the set up for Wonder Woman learning how to fly is “she whipped too hard, then whipped onto a plane for reasons that aren’t clear.”
Just . . . what?
- (2:01:05) Max Lord offers Barbara a second wish and she wishes she was in Cats.
All of this is just stupid and I’m tired. LOL
Just to scale it back and talk big picture here . . . why the fuck did they even need to make Kristen Wiig into cat lady? I get that she’s Cheetah, and fans want to see Cheetah VS Wonder Woman.
But this is the kind of massive contrivance that ruins comic book movies—the moments where they have to adhere to their source material, even when that adherence is not properly set up.
In an alternate reality somewhere, WW84 had the patience to set up Barbara as a morally grey sidekick, and then, in WW3, she becomes evil, finds the Jellicle Stone, and uses it to gain more power, becoming Cheetah in the process.
- (2:02:23) The rules of Max Lord’s power go to absolute shit at the end here. Not a single fuck was given. “Oh. He can ‘touch’ people by being in a broadcasting station, broadcasting to televisions that no one is touching? Okay. Sure. What-the fuck-ever.”
- (2:03:10) Max Lord manages to broadcast himself to everyone on planet Earth who has a TV, and I just have to laugh here. Because if I was alive for this—if Max Lord was real and he did this tomorrow—the moment he said, “All you have to do is make a wish,” I–freshly torn away from Control, which I just started playing–would absolutely roll my eyes and say, “Well, I wish Max Lord would shut the fuck up forever and let me get back to my game,” and his entire plan would be ruined. By just one smarmy asshole.
And there is no way in hell I’m the only person who would do that.
In fact, if I had just gotten home with a ton of groceries and I was tired, there’s a 95% chance I would sigh at my TV and say, “I wish Max Lord would fuck off and die.” Seriously, I say that kind of thing all the time without thinking—stupid, schoolyard exaggerations that I would logically never expect/actually want to happen.
Max’s plan here would have failed immediately.
- (2:04:34) I actually laughed really hard when the “She’s riding the lightning!” scene they kept showing in the promos was a totally pointless 5 seconds. Because of course it was.
- (2:06:01) Cannons start shooting up into the clouds at something you can’t see. Turns out to be an awesome, badass, female superhero.
No way you’ll ever see that in a Marvel movie.
- (2:07:21) Cheetah finally appears. No transformation.
Cheetah doesn’t look terrible, but this fight is . . . not great.
And of course it isn’t. I mean, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the writers behind this movie didn’t think about the space of their scenes and the execution of their action, so of course Diana blocks Cheetah’s attacks for (by my rough count) 35 seconds. She and Cheetah then spend about a minute swinging from Diana’s whip. Then, she and Diana fall in a pool of water, into which Diana pulls an electrical wire. And that electrocutes Cheetah . . . but not Diana?
But, hold on, isn’t Cheetah also a god now? Actually, isn’t she better than one? Because she initially wished to be like Diana, who, per the first film, is a literal god . . . But then, Barb wished to be better than Diana and “everyone else.” So shouldn’t she be shifting reality and teleporting around? I mean, this is the DC universe, so she should’ve flown down on a god ray wearing a cape and punched Diana into the center of the Earth, because Superman counts as “everyone else.”
Or, at the very least, she should’ve been able to withstand some fucking electricity.
- (2:13:47) There’s not much else for me to go on here, but there is a moment that perfectly encapsulates this entire movie.
Max Lord is taking wishes from people and building his own power. In a moment, Diana will use her whip to . . . talk to all of the people Max is transmitting to?
It’s all-the-way stupid.
I do like the idea of a villain being talked down instead of punched down, and (although it’s bizarre that he and Cheetah get off 100% Scot-free) I do find it interesting to see villains get passes. It even seems like Max gets a chance to reform, which is surprisingly healthy for a comic book movie.
That said, in this moment at 2:13:47, Diana leans back against a wall, and her armor . . . pushes it in, making it clear that the wall is foam. And of course it is; Gal Gadot fell back against it, so it makes sense it would be made out of foam as a safety precaution on her behalf.
But this shot, where her shoulder dips softly into concrete, is what this entire movie has been.
No one cared. No one double-checked the plot or questioned the action. They saw the kinks—the weird hoops the story had to jump through—and they shrugged. In the same way an editor saw the wall pressing in and shrugged.
“It’s fine,” they might have said aloud.
“Yes, I see those obvious flaws, but whatever. There are cool moments and my main character is rad. I’m good.”
And all I have to say is, “Please, no.”
Please, never, ever think that.
Writing—particularly editing—is a dangerous game. A lot of people keep working on their stories for eternity, never actually trying to get them published. That, obviously, is bad.
But it’s just as bad to see genuine flaws in your work and just shrug them away.
If something in your work is bad, it’s an opportunity to write something better. Because, at least in my experience, that’s almost always how correcting mistakes goes; no matter how deep I have to go into a plot to excise a loophole, my WIP’s are always better for it.
So, yes, if there’s one idea Wonder Woman 1984 reinforced in me, it’s the importance of editing, especially if you’re editing something you love.
But, also, it’s super important to understand settings.
Oh, and don’t ever put a dead character into a stranger’s body and totally disregard that stranger’s emotions.
And–goddammit, no. Nope. I’m just stopping! I need this part of my life to be over!
Thanks for passing by. I hope you enjoyed this honestly reserved criticism of a comic book movie that made millions of dollars regardless of how bad it was.
If you’d like to read another one, well boy howdy, I’ve done one other brutal takedown of a big budget Hollywood film, the cost and profit from which could’ve been used to save tons of people from poverty! Ha ha! Enjoy!
A Writer Watching – Solo: A Star Wars Story
Until next time, take care, stay safe, and if you know someone who’s lived totally by themselves for 10 months at this point, maybe check in on them? Everyone’s different, and everyone’s situation is unique, but if they’re still social distancing and they’re one of the many who probably won’t get the vaccine until the Summer, they’d probably appreciate hearing from you.