Practically all of the big films have steered away from cinema releases this year. Some have gone to streaming but the majority have just been postponed, most notably Bond which has had two published release dates come and go with the title No Time to Die coming to reflect the film company’s policy regarding the risk to their box office goals. Only Christopher Nolan, the cinematic temple’s most ardent evangelist, brought Tenet to theatres in the Summer. Now though we also have Wonder Woman 1984 opening in the hope that that number at the end stays the year in which it is set and not the amount of dollars it makes.
Clearly the decision to do this will cost them, just as it did Tenet which has the lowest receipts of any of Nolan’s films since The Prestige. I can see why they have put this film out there though; I think they just thought that we all needed it right now. Wonder Woman 1984 is ultimately about the inherent goodness of humanity and how, despite world events causing us to challenge what we hold dear and making us all self involved, we can all come together for a brighter future. There is a wonderful sense of optimism behind not only the central character but the whole movie and it is good to see. Also, with its bad guy being an untrustworthy business man who appeals to people’s worst nature, prides himself on being a TV personality and at one point addresses the world from a presidential position that he has deceived his way into, the film is also taking a few very unsubtle digs at the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This being the case it couldn’t very well wait until after 20th January for people to see it. Don’t forget this was originally scheduled to come out before the election. In fact the closing scenes are even set at Christmas so now more than ever is the time to get this out there. (The film is in cinemas from 16th Dec, streaming a month later in the UK but opens on both formats on 25th in the US.)
The timing of this film does undoubtedly add to the enjoyment, especially with audiences being deprived of big blockbuster films for almost all of the year. I was genuinely thrilled to see this last night, leaving the building only minutes before my area went into a higher tier and local cinemas closed again. The film feels delightfully epic in a way that no other film has in the last twelve months and that is a thrill.
Of course the story takes place largely in the decade of Duran Duran, deely boppers, Dynasty, double denim and Die Hard. To some extent this was also already the decade of Diana Prince. The famous TV show had run from ‘75 to ‘79 but it was in the following years that I remember watching it on regular repeats. Even more than Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins’ first Wonder Woman film, this one takes us back to that version of the character in some nice ways. It feels somehow reassuring to see Ms. Prince going about her regular life in wide collars and suit jackets again.
After the early scenes the story concentrates on capitalism and nukes as the touchstones of the era rather than fashion and this gives it a greater authenticity than just having everything set in malls and arcades and surrounded by pop culture. This said, by the end Kristen Wiig’s feline styled villain does end up looking like a ThunderCat. I don’t know if that is deliberate.
I will get to the plot later as I have some spoilerific things to say about that and I will warn you before I get into it. Here though let’s talk about that all important Ripley Factor. Once again Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a superb role model for young girls. She is kind, smart, just and strong and towards the end as she finds herself being propelled through the air she takes on the classic pose of DC comics’ other famous enhanced hero which seems to be demonstrably saying that anything superboys can do supergirls can do better. It’s true too, both of these films are much better than either of the man of steel movies. There is also an extended sequence at the beginning with Diana as a child, which did feel drawn out but how great to have numerous action scenes built around a twelve year old girl.
While I’m still ticking off the things I liked, the music is also very good. I have to say though, I’ve never been able to hear it before but for the first time I could get that Hans Zimmer was also the guy that write the Going For Gold quiz show theme. Listen to this movie’s soundtrack and you’ll see what I mean. For reference and a rush of nostalgia click here.
Here’s my problem then. Even by the standard of superhero films, the stuff that happens in this movie is really really silly. If you’ve seen it or you don’t care then read on but if you don’t want to know any more then step away now. I’m not going to discuss anything that happens in the last forty five minutes but there are some surprise events I want to get into from before that so consider yourself spoiler warned.
it was the magic, I had difficulty with the magic. I know that DC’s Shazam effectively centres around mysticism too but the central MacGuffin here is a magic wishing stone, for goodness sake. That’s the kind of thing that fuels the plot of cheesy body switch movies like Big, Freaky Friday or Vice Versa and as if this wasn’t enough of a stretch Pablo Pascal’s bad guy gets hold of the thing and goes full Jafar and wishes to become a genie.
I know all of the films in this genre push the limits of believability, they might try and dress up the events in all of the Avengers movies as science when it’s effectively all just voodoo but that’s what I need for me to go along with it. This didn’t feel like a superhero film, it felt like I was watching Harry Potter and the Princess of Themyscira. Even the Indiana Jones movies, that are built around quests for magic objects don’t over use them like this film. Ever since the trailer for this came out people have been wondering how Steve comes back from the dead but I don’t think anyone expected magic to be the answer, magic and a quantum leap into some other guys body. Also while I’m on that, if you lose control of your body and someone then has sex with you, aren’t there some very serious consent issues around that?
I know that Wonder Woman is a god, but she doesn’t have infinite power. She’s not Bruce Almighty. How is she suddenly able to make things vanish from sight with her mind? I see that they wanted to get Wonder Woman’s invisible jet plane in the movie but couldn’t they have thought of a better way of doing it? Also, how is she suddenly able to fly? Steve ‘Heaven Can Wait’ Trevor explained that flight is ‘all air, and knowing how to ride the currents’ which is fine if you’re in a frigging plane but it doesn’t work if you don’t have a handy little thing called wings. Wonder Woman even gets a winged suit later on but randomly she doesn’t use that for this purpose. Apparently she doesn’t need to, logic be damned. (On that other suit, it is nice to see her get a pair of trousers.)
The problem here is that none of this has a proper set up and without that falling back on magic to fuel your narrative just seems like weak writing.
Wonder Woman 1984 is fun and Gal Gadot does play the character brilliantly but like no other superhero film it really does test how far you are willing to suspend disbelief. For me it asked too much.